Feeling Fit – October 31st 2015

I’ve been campaigning as a lung cancer advocate since 2009, when I organized a run/walk to raise awareness during November, which is lung cancer awareness month. That first race was a great success, raising over $50,000 in just one day. This year I will organize my seventh race and hope to raise $70,000 when all is said and done. In the first four years the money raised by the race was used to support the National Lung Cancer Partnership’s program to fund lung cancer research by young investigators. In the last three years, we have used the race to fund my charity’s programs to raise awareness and promote screening and early detection.Lung cancer screening using low-dose CT scan is now accepted medical protocol. Our mission is to make sure that people most at

risk of developing lung cancer (former smokers and current smokers over the age of 55) are aware of the need to get an annual screening.
Putting on a race is a big undertaking that requires a lot of effort, day by day, all year long. We’ve been working on a new and improved website since January. The website is designed to be a resource for anyone diagnosed with lung cancer.

Under the tab “Support/Resources” you will find a link to the newly revised NCCN Patient Guide for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, sponsored by The Lung Cancer Research Council and Lung Cancer Alliance. The Guide is free and provides 122 pages of essential information about lung cancer that every newly diagnosed patient and caregiver needs to know, including what lung cancer is, how it is staged, treatment options, and making treatment decisions. I would have been glad to have this resource when I was diagnosed. Copies of the guide is also available in print at Amazon.com.

What we are doing is a lot of effort and expense and I’ve sometimes wondered if we are making any difference. I am learning that, in fact, our efforts are beginning to make difference, albeit on a small scale.

I received a letter by e-mail not too long ago from woman thanking me for alerting smokers and former smokers over the age of 55 about getting an annual screening for lung cancer. The column I wrote last year inspired her to get screened, which resulted in her finding early stage lung cancer last December at the age 72. Thankfully, because it was found early, she was a candidate to have the cancer surgically removed and now has a good prognosis for living a much longer life. It only takes something over 300 screenings of high risk individuals to find one lung cancer. By comparison, you need to screen 1000 women to find one breast cancer. The trick is getting the people at risk educated to act. By the time you become symptomatic it may be too late!

Last week I went on Facebook to promote our November 7th run/walk and discovered 15 messages, some more than a year old, from people I did not know. I had no idea that complete strangers were trying to reach me by messenger on Facebook to talk about their lung cancer diagnosis. One message was from a 9/11 NYC fireman’s cousin, looking for some hope. She had found my book “Living with Lung Cancer – My Journey” and wanted me to speak with her fireman cousin to give him hope. Unfortunately, by the time I responded, her cousin Chris had already passed.
In another message, a woman from Boston reached out to me to tell me she was writing a lung cancer book of her own. She wanted tips on getting published so this weekend we spoke by phone. I learned that she is a 50 year old single mother of two who never smoked. She was diagnosed four years ago, at the age of 46, with Stage II lung cancer. Tragically, she lost her husband in a car accident the year after she was diagnosed. She was formally a financial advisor and quit her very good paying job to be a stay at home mom. Now she is struggling to get back on her feet financially. She called me to thank me for giving her hope and offered to help The Lung Cancer Research Council get started in Boston. That gave me hope this week, that we are, indeed, making progress, day by day, one day at a time.

Thomas E Cappiello is an eight year lung-cancer survivor and founder and president of The Lung Cancer Research Council, Inc., a non-profit charity dedicated to promoting lung cancer awareness, screening and early detection. Write to him at tcappiello@np.zypha.com or visit www.lungcancerresearchcouncil.org