I've written a lot about the stigma of lung cancer. Yet, sometimes our perspectives change. Today I'm writing about the stigma of lung cancer in a new light. From the stance of a recently diagnosed breast cancer patient -- me.
On one side, I have had the opportunity to experience a wee trace of the "stigma" of cancer. I've also been asked questions. "Do you have a family history of breast cancer?" "How long did you breastfeed your children?" "Were you exposed to pesticides as a child?" Of course nobody has asked if I smoked, or directly implied that I "caused" my cancer. But questions nonetheless.
In response to those questions, a dear friend hit the nail on the head. People want a reason to believe they are "immune" to cancer. They want a reason to say "this couldn't happen to me."
But cancer happens. It happens (lung cancer included) in people who are "doing everything right." And that makes it scary. Really scary.
On the other side, the lack of a stigma has been even more dramatic. As I look around I see a sea of pink. Pink flowers of so many varieties. Pink packages. Pink clothes. Pink caps for upcoming chemo.
But where are the white flowers, the white packages, the white (?invisible) ribbons for those I care so much about who have lung cancer? Those thoughts have left me in oxymoron central. Feeling full (feeling support myself with breast cancer), but feeling empty (longing for more support for those with lung cancer.)
So. Speaking now as a breast cancer survivor (we are survivors the day we are diagnosed), I am making a vow to myself and the lung cancer community to raise my voice. It's time that lung cancer survivors receive the same compassion and love and support that breast cancer survivors do. And it's time that funding for lung cancer catches up with that for breast cancer, and offers the same hope for new treatments in the future.