L is for…


…Lung cancer – the AIDS of cancers

When JD was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were gobsmacked. How could this happen? He never smoked, didn’t work in a smoky environment, wasn’t exposed (to our knowledge anyways) to any of the other environmental toxins linked to cancer.

It. Just. Happened.

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if he smoked. The conversation usually went like this:

Me: We just found out JD has lung cancer, stage 4.

Person: Oh, that’s terrible! (Then, almost immediately) Is he a smoker?

Me: No, not ever.*

Person: That is so unfair.

(So clearly it is then fair if you are a smoker???)

It was so noticeable – the type and order of the questions – that I wanted to say “Yes, like a chimney” to the inevitable smoking question, to see how the person responded after that apparently vital piece of information was revealed. But I never did, because it seemed mean and tricksy to do that to people. Also, I needed all my energy for supporting JD – not arguing with educating people.

Here’s the sad thing. I am 100% sure I either did or would have responded in the exact same way prior to our experience with this disease. Yes, I was one of those JUDGMENTAL KNOBS prior to May of 2013, unaware of the stigma facing lung cancer sufferers who admit to smoking. As if the damn disease wasn’t enough to have to deal with.

But since then, I’ve had loads of time to research and to ruminate on all things lung cancer and I am here to tell you that EVERYONE who gets the Big C, in any part of the body, deserves our full compassion and support. No qualifiers, please.

Lung cancer research is one of the most underfunded, and yet this cancer with rising rates is one of the deadliest. The reasons?

First – by the time you are diagnosed, for most people it’s already too late.

Second – the general public thinks it is an entirely avoidable disease so why are they being asked to donate to a cancer that people bring on themselves? Let’s donate instead to one of those other deadly cancers like breast or prostate or melanoma and let the lung cancer victims die like flies suffer from their poor choices.  Hmmm…what’s going to happen to melanoma research now in the years ahead that when all the tanning bed enthusiasts are start dying, I wonder?

I don’t want to get into a long rant about how powerful and blinding the twin forces of addiction and denial are. If you are any kind of a human being, you probably already know this. But I think, as an ex-smoker, that I can speak for all smokers when I say that no one gets into – and keeps – smoking FOR THE CANCER.

So please, in this month of cancer awareness and all year round, if you learn that someone has been diagnosed with lung cancer:

Don’t ask if they smoked. It doesn’t matter anymore, really! (Except to health care professionals who are determining the best treatment options and do need to know this.) Never-smokers and long-time ex-smokers get lung cancer too, so who’s to say the smoking definitively caused this particular occurrence of disease? Meditate on this if you need to silence your inner Judgy McJudgetrousers.

Put all your “I told you so” and “Well, what did you think was gonna happen when you kept sucking on those coffin nails?” thoughts in a box to the left, to the left…and keep yer yap zipped and yer gaze set to “Compassion with a Capital C”.

The cancer is here now and nothing you can say or think will change this or help, unless you:

Do offer the person and their family all the love and support that’s in you to give.

They’re gonna need it.

This has been a public service announcement by WB Industries – striving to make the world a less judge-y place, one post at a time.

The WB

*I added the “not ever” to my response because I quickly learned the next question would inevitably be: Did he used to smoke?

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