World Lung Cancer Day…August 1, 2016. Four years ago was the very first World Lung Cancer Day. It isn’t a fun day like Grandparents Day or a birthday. It isn’t a silly day like National Pizza Day or Hammock Day…There are 365 days each year, and we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, graduations, and weddings. World Lung Cancer Day isn’t there to celebrate—just the opposite. We are trying to raise awareness for the deadliest of all cancers—worldwide! In 2012, there were 14.1 million new cases of lung cancer with 8.2 million deaths. That’s not cause for celebrating.

It’s ironic that the first World Lung Cancer Day was the same day Jillian started her chemo/trial treatments in hopes of prolonging her life. I was oblivious to any days or months associated with lung cancer. Now I have a slightly different perspective. I see these days/months as an opportunity to shout, jump, yell. I’d even stand on my head if it would help bring lung cancer into mainstream conversations.

I have to admit that for many years I participated in a breast cancer walk. My awareness of cancer was that I was more likely to get this type than any other. That was until Jillian and our world was rocked to the core with a lung cancer diagnosis. It’s not breast cancer that kills more women; it’s lung cancer. Which brings me to question the new law that was passed. Most people won’t know that H.R.2722 was signed into law this past April without fuss or horns and whistles that will permit the U.S. Mint to release a series of three coins commemorating breast cancer. I for one, signed a petition, albeit late, to stop this from happening. The first coins will be minted in 2018. And it makes me angry, frustrated, and..I just want to shout! And this saddens me.

Here are just a few of the findings noted in the bill:

  1. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.
  2. Breast cancer is the SECOND leading cause of cancer deaths in women. But thanks to early detection that number has decreased since 1989.
  3. There is strong interest among the American public to do more to tackle this disease.
  4. Finding a cure for breast cancer is a goal of the United States Government.
I could go on…but it won’t change the outcome. I sincerely congratulate all women and breast cancer survivors for raising awareness to new heights. Besides October being pink with all the pink ribbon accessories you can purchase to support breast cancer, you can eventually buy a coin or three to commemorate this cancer. I am glad we have so many women and men who are surviving breast cancer. Some of my lifetime friends are survivors, as is my sister-in-law. Yes, they deserve a lifetime…all cancer patients do!

Lung cancer isn’t pretty, pink or sexy. The majority of people’s perception is that based on personal lifestyle choices (unhealthy living, smoking etc.) lung cancer patients gave themselves this disease. I realized while attending the Free to Breathe Leadership Conference this past June, that we all have unconscious biases, and that seems more prevalent with lung cancer than with any other cancer. As long as the bias remains, our loved ones with lung cancer will not see equality in research funding, understanding and compassion. Which brings me to a new bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives this past May by Rep. Nolan of Minnesota: H.R.5263. It’s entitled: “Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventative Services Act of 2016.” Some of what this bill addresses is:

  1. In the U.S., an average of 198 women die each day of lung cancer.
  2. Lung cancer is the leading cause of deaths in women.
  3. The National Cancer Institute estimates this year 71,600 women will die from lung cancer—more than breast cancer (40,450) cervical (4,120) uterine (10,470) and other gynecological cancers (1,990)
World Lung Cancer Day is here again…and what is the state of this terrible disease? Well…since the last World Cancer Day, seven new drugs were approved for treatment. Seven!!! Our research scientists are getting more innovative with looking at these cancer cells. For instance, Dr. Adam Marcus from Emory School of Medicine has recently discovered that cancer cells have leaders and followers. The leader cell breaks off from the tumor and then returns to pick up the followers…without followers, the leader cell can’t continue to mutate and metastasize. Wow! Who knew? The Federal Drug Administration has recently approved the first blood-based genetic based test that can detect the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutations in non-small cell lung cancer patients. A non-invasive test? Awesome! All the advances in screening happened because of research. And again, these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more lung cancer survivors today because of these and other efforts. But the flip side is that lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths, receives the least amount of funding, federal or other, and the 5-year survival rate is less than 17 percent

As a lung cancer advocate, we have a lot more to do. We should do better for those, like Jillian, affected by lung cancer. I’m not advocating another law to commemorate lung cancer by minting a coin, nor do I fault the breast cancer community for getting one. I don’t want any one cancer to get less funding. I just want equal funding, compassion and understanding for lung cancer. I’m advocating that we owe it to everyone to work collaboratively to fund research. It’s great to have World Lung Cancer Day, Lung Cancer Hope Month and Lung Cancer Awareness Month. But we need more than a month or day to understand and break the hold lung cancer has within the patient. We need to fund innovative researchers, and we need to find new treatments and life-saving options that will lead to cures! I’d like to say no coins involved, but that would be silly, as we need coins and dollars, lots of them, to find a cure.

So with World Lung Cancer Day here, I ask that we raise awareness, continue to educate, and change people’s perceptions. Ask your congressional representatives to join the U.S. Congressional Lung Cancer Caucus and to co-sponsor Representative Nolan’s bill. And yes, fund lung cancer research. Anyone can get lung cancer—plain and simple.

Stronger than lung cancer,

Ros Miller, President & Co-Founder Jillian's Dream

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