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Betsy Thompson: Finding support for lung cancer

Posted: August 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Thank you to the city of Santa Clarita, Mayor Frank Ferry and Julie Skinner for the recognition and proclamation of Lung Cancer Survivors Day today in the city of Santa Clarita.

I have been a resident of Santa Clarita since 1980. In 2006, I was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.

According to statistics, I should not be here. Only 15 percent of late-stage lung cancer patients survive five years, according to the Center for Disease Control. I can thank my wonderful surgeon and our local oncologist, Dr. Alexander Black, and his team of oncology nurses, for my continued survival. And I am lucky.

Lung cancer detection screening remains a topic of medical debate and leaves a large number of our population unscreened. The majority of lung cancer cases are often misdiagnosed or caught accidentally while progressing to a late untreatable stage.

Undetected and left untreated, many late-stage patients die within one year.

Lung cancer kills 160,000 people annually in the United States, claiming twice as many women’s lives as breast cancer and almost 10 times the number of lives lost to AIDS.

It kills more people than breast, kidney, colon, and melanoma cancers combined.

An estimated 60 percent of all newly diagnosed cases are non-smokers or those who quit years ago, according to the Lung Cancer Foundation of America — anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.

Despite these staggering facts, lung cancer lags in every area of research, funding, screening, rehabilitation and support afforded other cancers and major diseases.

There is a debilitating stigma attached to this alleged “smokers’ disease” that denies most patients the support and compassion afforded other cancers. The survival rate for lung cancer has barely budged in the past 40 years.

Lung cancer is bad, but the people battling it are not. Lung cancer patients and their families face the same physical, emotional and financial hardships as any other cancer.

They battle the same fears, depression, losses and grueling treatments, yet receive minimal support and are often blamed for their disease.

The lack of societal and emotional support often leads to isolation and can be as damaging as the disease itself. Despite great efforts, there remains no cancer society endorsed or sponsored lung cancer support group in Santa Clarita.

Last year, I launched the Lung Cancer Survivors Foundation to build local support groups and offer patient services throughout the United States. Our first local chapter is slated to start here in Santa Clarita, and we welcome our community’s support.

We offer privately sponsored support groups for all those touched by this disease.

Please join us today in celebrating, commemorating and supporting the courageous heroes who battle this oft-neglected, lethal disease.

Look for the white ribbon around town, and if you know anyone affected by this disease, be sure to give them a hug!

Once again, infinite gratitude to the city of Santa Clarita for recognizing the importance of honoring the patients, survivors, caregivers, loved ones and all those lost to this disease. Thank you.

While our website and local chapter are under development, please visit our group to connect and find support: Lung Cancer Survivors Foundation on Facebook.

Betsy Thompson is a Valencia resident and founder of the Lung Cancer Survivors Foundation. She can be emailed at


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