Tag Archives: lung cancer

Thursday Morning Melody: The Cigarette Duet

How many of you have had the cigarette conversation with a friend or loved one? Or perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of such an intervention? Either way, it might have gone something like this:

Friend: You really need to quit smoking.

Smoker: Yeah…

Friend: It can kill you.

Smoker: I know…

Touching on this important phenomenon with a bit of playful wit, New Zealand singer/songwriter Princess Chelsea lays it down in her song “The Cigarette Duet.” Off her debut solo album, “Lil’ Golden Book,” the song features Jonathan Bree of The Brunettes, who also shot the accompanying music video (which, by the way cost them nothing to make and immediately went viral.)

The song and video together are a comical look at the tension cigarettes can create in a relationship. The thick scent of smoke, cigarette breath, and money spent on endless packs are some factors that might cause discord, not to mention, of course, the ticking time bomb of lung cancer, mouth cancer, and heart disease. However irreverent, hopefully this song will inspire some real reflection on the bad habits we cling to, and the people we may hurt along the way.

It’s just a cigarette & it cannot be that bad
Honey don’t you love me and you know it makes me sad?
It’s just a cigarette like you always used to do
I was different then, I don’t need them to be cool

It’s just a cigarette and it harms your pretty lungs
Well it’s only twice a week so there’s not much of a chance
It’s just a cigarette it’ll soon be only ten
Honey can’t you trust me when I want to stop I can

It’s just a cigarette and it’s just a Marlboro Light
Maybe but is it worth it if we fight?
It’s just a cigarette that I got from Jamie-Lee
She’s gonna get a smack and I’m gonna give you three

It’s just a cigarette and I only did it once
it’s only twice a week so there’s not much of a chance
It’s just a cigarette and I’m sorry that I did it
Honey can’t you trust me when I want to stop I can

* * *

This post is part of  our Thursday Morning Melody series. Every Thursday we feature the music video and lyrics to a song that touches us deeply. If there’s a melody you wish to share with the Intent community, please share it with us in the comments below! Click here to listen to past Thursday Morning Melodies.

Weekly Health Tip: Never Smoke. If You Smoke Now, Quit

Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com

A smoker’s body shows evidence of the habit’s deadly effects from head to toe. The way tobacco smoke ravages lung tissue is well known. The cardiovascular system is also imperiled as smoking damages the cells lining blood vessels and causes arteries to constrict. Smokers’ risk of heart disease is 2 to 4 times that of nonsmokers, and their risk of sudden death from a heart attack is twice that of nonsmokers. Smokers also are more likely to suffer vision loss from cataract development or macular degeneration. Expectant mothers who smoke expose the fetus to grievous harm. Smoking causes the uterine blood vessels to narrow. As a result, overall fetal growth is slowed and brain development can be seriously impeded. The likelihood of premature birth and other delivery complications is higher for smokers. The effects of smoking also include slower healing of wounds, muscle fatigue and premature aging. Smoking is an all-out assault on nearly every function of the body.

Learn more about the benefits of smoking cessation:

TheVisualMD.com: Never Smoke. If you Smoke Now, Quit

A Breast Cancer Awareness Month Plea from a ‘Breath Cancer’ Survivor

Its challenging to be a Breath Cancer survivor during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Whats Breath Cancer? Its the cancer that attacks the organ behind the breast, the organ we cannot live without.

Its proper name is Lung Cancer. But I prefer to call it Breath Cancer, because it literally and permanently takes the breath from a jumbo jet-full of people every day.

I bet youre wondering if I smoked. Did you know that up to 20% of people with Breath Cancer never smoked, 60% dont currently smoke, and most of us wince at the question?

People dont ask Breast Cancer survivors whether theyre overweight or drank wine (raises the risk), exercised (lowers risk), or got regular mammograms. Is this partly because Breast Cancer is sexualized? As the new "Save the Boobs" PSA shows, breasts are beautiful. And the thought of losing them? Terrifying. No blame, no shame to Breast Cancer.

Not so with Breath Cancer. Although its usually caused by smoking which like overeating, is a lifestyle choice most fighting the disease dont smoke. But that shouldnt matter anyway. Cancer is cancer. I lost one friend to Breast, another to Colon, another to Breath Cancer. Did one deserve to live more than another?

Its challenging to be a Breath Cancer survivor during October because everyone cares so vocally about Breast Cancer. And although Breath Cancer kills twice as many women, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November), you wont see invisible ribbons (the non-color of Breath Cancer) used to hawk everything from tissues to tampons.

Stigma has kept Breath Cancer deplorably underfunded. And thats why only 15% of us live longer than five years. Thats unfair. So please. Care.

And by the way, yes, I smoked, but quit almost 20 years before my diagnosis. Regardless, dont I deserve to live?

Lori Hope is the author of the top-rated cancer support book, Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know, and speaks and blogs about how to help people facing cancer and other life challenges. For more information, see LoriHope.com, or read her interview with Time, "How to talk to a friend with breast cancer".

This originally appeared as a guest blog post on Beliefnet’s Fresh Living blog. Read Lori’s other powerful cancer features on Beliefnet:

How to Keep Hope Alive Through Cancer

Wise Words from Cancer Survivors

To Desperate Housewives Star Kathy Joosten: You Are So Strong!

Should you tell people with cancer how strong they are? As evidenced by the 145 comments on the recent New York Times "Well" blog post, “Does cancer make you strong?”, most of us who’ve received a cancer diagnosis have very strong opinions about why we should not be told how strong we are.

One man who hasn’t had cancer but is disabled, wrote a comment more than twice as long as the blog post itself explaining why he’s sick of being called “strong, brave, and courageous”, and how others should just listen to us if they really want to help.

Although I agree – or thought I agreed – that no one should say “You’re so strong” to a cancer survivor, I read something this morning that truly humbled me. And changed my mind.

One of the stars of the TV show, “Desperate Housewives”, Kathryn Joosten, shared with a group of us fellow advocates that her lung cancer has returned, and that this time, there will be “No more hiding”, as she titled her email.

She wrote: “I was complaining bitterly to a friend that the public would find out, that a planned show might be in jeopardy, that I didn’t want the people on Desperate Housewives to know, and he said, ‘You’re doing the same thing you rail about other celebrities doing’. And he was right.

“So now. . .I’m going public in every way I can. I’m going to denounce the totally unfair and biased funding that puts lung cancer at the bottom of the research pile.

“I’m going to attack the stigma the public has attached to lung cancer, the cigarette companies for their lies and their chemical tricks to increase addiction and any other target I can find.”

When I saw Kathy speak at the National Lung Cancer Partnership Advocacy Summit last spring, I liked and admired her immediately. I loved hearing her joke, “No one in Hollywood has lung cancer – because no one will admit it!” I laughed. And later I cried.

Some who have had cancer have experienced the stigma of the disease itself, and the subterranean suspicion that we did something to deserve it.

But when you’ve had lung cancer, the stigma stings like a wasp’s nest. People ask all the time whether you smoked – whether you brought it on yourself, if other words. Whether you deserve it.

No one – no one – deserves lung cancer. Everyone – obese people with diabetes and heart disease, people who practice unsafe sex and get AIDS – deserves to survive. Everyone deserves compassion.*

If you have any doubt, ask yourself, "What would Jesus – or Mother Theresa or Buddha or any spiritual leader or good person – do?"

I wrote back to Kathy this morning about the blog concerning the statement, "You’re so strong", which so many of us cancer survivors disdain, since we’re just doing what people do – we’re fighting to stay alive.

“You, however, are strong in a much different way,” I wrote. “You are strong to stand up and speak out, in spite of the stigma and possible repercussions. That takes tremendous courage, and I’m in awe of you for that. Thank you.”

Bless Kathy, and please send her love, prayers, and good thoughts. I have faith that she will survive this. And that by being so strong and courageous, she will help millions of others survive this despicable, cruel disease.

Always hope,
Lori
Author of Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know

www.LoriHope.com

* This is not to say, of course, that we shouldn’t all do whatever possible to keep ourselves healthy. I believe with all my heart that we should. But once an individual falls ill, we should not cast blame or turn away.

This post originally appeared on Hope’s CarePages blog, "what helps. what hurts. what heals."

“I’m so glad we have a smoker in the White House!” Oh, really???

“I’m so glad we’ll have a smoker in the White House!”

That’s what a nurse exclaimed in my presence at a dinner party last December, a month before President Obama’s inauguration.

I kid you not. A nurse. And obviously a cigarette addict.

It’s a good thing I hadn’t had a glass of wine, or I probably would have lunged across the large table and strangled this woman I had just met. I was shocked, offended, and enraged.

“I had lung cancer,” I said loudly, “and it makes me sick to hear that anyone smokes, but especially our nation’s leader, who’s supposed to set a good example.”

Six months later, the day after new legislation giving the FDA authority to regulate cigarettes, I have to say I now agree with the nurse. Why? Three reasons:

1. President Obama’s commitment to preventing youth from taking up the habit he did as a teen, which helped give him the courage to enact legislation that the tobacco industry lobbied so strongly against. Like 90% of butt addicts, I too started as a teen, and later, as a medical reporter, became a closet smoker after trying quitting many times.

2. People who’ve never smoked may begin to understand how horribly addicting cigarettes are, more addicting than heroin, according to many junkies. Only problem is, the butts still contain nicotine, the substance that is most addicting in cigarettes. But we’ll get on that another time.

3. This provides an opportunity to reveal the crucial truth that 15% of people with lung cancer never smoked at all, and 60% are non-smokers. According to a study published in July 2008, less than 2% of lung cancers can be attributed to second hand smoke “For study participants that were exposed to SHS (second hand smoke) at both activities (work and leisure),” states the summary, “and compared to one or no activity, the adjusted odds ratio for lung cancer was 1.30.”

An article in the “Consults” section of the New York Times yesterday attempted to answer the question, “Why do people who never smoke get lung cancer?” and caused a flurry of controversy, because medical oncologist Derek Raghavan blamed second hand smoke more than any other cause.

“. . .there are actually several answers [to the question],” wrote Raghavan. “Probably the most important issue is that many people who claim not to smoke actually do. . .they breathe in the cigarette smoke that is exhaled by others. For example, consider the very tragic death from lung cancer of Dana Reeve. . .Ms. Reeve had never smoked actively, but she did work as an entertainer, singing in smoke-filled bars and restaurants. That was probably the genesis of her cancer.”

Truth is, we don’t know why so many nonsmokers get lung cancer, because this, the biggest cancer killer, is the least funded of all the major cancers.

Thank you, President Obama, for inspiring almost 6,000 news media entities (according to Google News) to focus on your personal struggle with smoking, as well as signing into law legislation that will hopefully reduce the percentage of youth who are smokers by the time they graduate high school (currently 20%)!

And thank you, Dinner Party Nurse, for inspiring this article, and helping me substitute gratitude for rage!

Always hope,
Lori
Author • Speaker • Essayist
www.LoriHope.com

NOTE: For any of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s an exciting SF Giants/Oakland A’s game tomorrow night (June 24) to benefit lung cancer. The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation’s “Knock It Out of the Park- Battle of the Bay” to increase lung cancer patients’ survival will award 5th grader Emma Olsen, who won the “Dear Mr. President” Essay Contest. She’ll throw the first pitch at the ballgame with Bonnie. A book of essays will be sent to President Barack Obama to help him solve the lung cancer epidemic. Click here for more information.

Also, click here to here to see the Lung Cancer Alliance’s public statement about the new legislation.

This post originally appeared on Hope’s Everyday Health and CarePages.com blog, "Hope for Cancer: what helps. what hurts. what heals."

5 Books to Help You Hope, Help, and Heal

“Did you smoke?” When I was diagnosed with lung cancer- after quitting smoking almost 20 years before my diagnosis – I fielded that question way too many times. Traumatized and hypersensitive, I needed to be cared for, not queried; listened not lectured to. Though I use, "Did you smoke?” now as an opportunity to share that 15% of people with lung cancer never smoked, and most of those individuals are women, including 22 year–old college athlete, Taylor Bell, that question stung so much that it helped spawn my book, Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know.

Since 2002 I have been researching and writing about cancer and compassionate speech and action. Along the way I have read a number of books (many more than five!) that complement different perspectives to my own work. If you want to  learn, laugh, and practice compassion until your heart swells with love, please check out the following must-reads.  For a more comprehensive list, visit the Resources section of my website.

The Etiquette of Illness, by Susan Halpern – This psychotherapist and social worker, in a most sensitive and caring voice, teaches us how to comfort a close friend, colleague or relative who is living with any serious physical or mental illness. What I love about this book is not only Susan’s beautiful heart and writing, but the fact that she recognizes that we all differ, and can’t operate under an immutable set of rules. But she reassures us that as long as words come from the heart, they will surely heal.

Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person: A memoir in comics, Miriam Engleberg – This “graphic novel” makes me laugh and cry every time I read it, because its poignant look into the life of a young breast cancer survivor reminds me of the massive difference you can make by opening your heart and simply listening. Oh, and sometimes keeping your mouth shut. I often use Miriam’s comics in my speeches because they so perfectly express profound feelings and powerful but fun images.

What Can I Do to Help: 75 practical ideas for family and friends from cancer’s frontline,
  Deborah Hutton  – Deborah Hutton was the health editor of British Vogue when she was blindsided by a lung cancer diagnosis. “It’s the ‘serves you right’ cancer,” she writes in this book, published the day before she died. Hutton’s writing is a joy to read, and her suggestions are plentiful and creative, though I so wish she had never had occasion to write the book. Like all deaths to cancer, hers was tragic and unacceptable. Though we have no choice at this point about accepting it.

How to Heal: A guide for caregivers, Jeff Kane, MD – I interviewed this former emergency room doctor when I was researching my book, after reading his, and fell in love with the heart of compassion embodied in this intelligent, sensitive, and funny guy. After 10 years of medical practice, Jeff realized that, though he knew a fair amount about diseases, he knew little about how patients experienced them, and left his practice to develop support group discussions with patients of what it was like to be sick. He says that both attentive listening and "hearing" what is not said are vital, and in his book provides numerous suggestions for enabling truly healing relationships. A philosophy major (like me), he also includes wise and fascinating from mythology and classics.

I Don’t Know What to Say: how to help and support someone who is dying,
Robert Buckman, MD – I read this book last fall when my friend Roxanne was dying. If you ever must face the loss of a friend or loved one, and I hope you will not, this volume penned by a psychiatrist, contains sensitive and gentle suggestions as well as anecdotes to illustrate the powerful points made.

Again, other excellent books discuss cancer support – many target not just friends and caregivers, but cancer survivors themselves. For more information, Google Jimmie Holland, MD, “the mother of psycho-oncology”; Lawrence LeShan, PhD, “the father  of mind-body medicine”; Wendy Harpham, MD, cancer survivor,  speaker, and prolific author; Kairol Rosenthal, young cancer warrior;  Jerome Groopman, MD, who writes so beautifully about the art and science of hope; Rosanne Kalick, who pulls no punches in prescribing helpful words and behavior; Vicki Gerard, author of the classic book about providing  hope, help, and inspiration for people with cancer; and Greg Anderson, whose book about 50 essential things to do after you’re diagnosed was the first book I read after my cancer diagnosis, and helped me immensely.

Again, for a more comprehensive list, visit the Resource section of my website. And of course any book by Deepok Chopra, MD, the Dalai Lama, or Pema Chodron, will teach you much about compassion, hope, and healing.

Thank you for caring enough to consider these books, should you ever need gentle guidance, hope, and healing for a loved one with cancer.

Always hope,

Lori

Lori Hope
Writer • Speaker • Editor
Author of Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know
www.LoriHope.com

http://twitter.com/lorihope

The Nun with Lung Cancer: “Did she smoke?”

I stepped onto the elevator after my American Cancer Society speech, eager to check out of the hotel and head home, and found myself alone with a slender 50-something woman who had a name tag round her neck. I knew she wasn’t an ACS conference-goer, because our name tags clipped on.

“What meeting are you here for?” I asked.

“A conference with a health system I work with. I’m a nun,” she said proudly.

One thing led to another – I told her I was there sharing stories about what people with cancer need others to know – and when the elevator doors parted less than a minute later, we decided not to. This Sister had become my sister because of something we shared: a lung cancer diagnosis.

“I’m so sick of people asking me if I smoked,” she said, “because, really, what difference does it make? I never touched a cigarette, but why even bring it up?”

Less than two hours earlier, I’d told a story to the audience about the pain and shame that result from the dreaded “Did you smoke?” question, a question that fogs compassion and feels like a smokescreen for “Did you give yourself cancer?” The Sister and I talked about that for a moment, then moved onto how we were diagnosed. Both of our tumors were discovered by mistake when we underwent a CT scan and x-ray of our abdomens for other problems.

We compared notes as if we’d gone to the same high school years apart, but the stories weren’t about teachers, students, or Drama Club, they were about treatments, hopes, and of course fears. She was a relative newbie survivor, just two years out; I told her my treatment ended more than six years ago, which made her eyes twinkle.

She shared how shocked people were when they found out she had lung cancer, and I noted that lung cancer in never-smoking women has been called epidemic because the numbers have increased so much in recent years. “Twenty percent of women with lung cancer never smoked, and one study showed that of never-smokers with lung cancer, 80% were women,” I said, adding, “When people ask me whether I smoked, I take it as an opportunity to educate them.”***

We exchanged email addresses, hugged and promised to connect soon. And in an instant I realized there was a reason I waited in my room to come downstairs until precisely 1 pm; there was a reason I was asked to speak at this conference; there was a reason that my doctor ordered that CT scan.

Now I’m not saying God or the Universe gave me cancer, kept me in my hotel room, or got me invited to speak just so I could meet this never-smoking nun on an elevator in Costa Mesa, California. But nonetheless, reasons, hope, and story seeds now abound. And I will not let them lie fallow. Because when seeds such as these sprout, they become tropic, bending toward truth like a sunflower toward the sun.

I’m going to contact the Sister this week to ask if she’s willing to share her story publicly with major news media. You can’t find someone much more ‘innocent’ than a nun to open minds and help fight the stigma and generate more compassion and funding for this disease.

My heart tells me my Sister will say yes without giving it a thought.

Always hope,
Lori
Author • Speaker • Communications Consultant
www.LoriHope.com
[This post originally appeared on Lori’s CarePages.com blog, "Hope for Cancer: what helps. what hurts. what heals."]

***For more information about women and lung cancer, see the
National Lung Cancer Partnership or The Lung Cancer Alliance.
And for a list of lung cancer organizations and helpful resources, see The Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.
For information about radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer, see The Beverly Fund.
 

Lung Cancer: What

“Did you smoke?”

Most of the 160,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer each year field that query numerous times. It’s usually the first question that pops into people’s minds, and as a writer and speaker who encounters myriad folks punched by lung cancer, I’ve often wanted to ask “Did you smoke?”

But I’m a lung cancer survivor myself, so I know to hold my tongue. Why?

Though it would seem a legitimate question – smoking and lung cancer are incontrovertibly  linked – almost everyone I’ve talked with who’s been diagnosed with the disease dislikes being asked. It makes us feel guilty or ashamed if we did smoke, and if we didn’t, we feel like the questioner is focusing on the cause of our illness rather than our present trauma. And once we’ve been diagnosed, we need support, compassion, and hope. We need to look forward, not backward.

When I was first diagnosed, the question really upset me, but six years later, I use it to educate the questioner, sharing that:

  • 15% of people with lung cancer never smoked.
  • 60% never smoked or quit, sometimes decades ago.
  • Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer, taking twice as many lives yearly as breast cancer and more lives than all the other major cancers combined.
  • Though lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer, it’s the least funded of the major cancers.
  • The stigma associated with lung cancer actually hinders some from seeking the treatment they need.
  • The tobacco industry spends more than $10 billion annually marketing its poison to young people.
  • Smoking is more addictive than heroin, say junkies who’ve tried to quit both.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. I didn’t mention that earlier because I wanted you to care first. Some people have called lung cancer the “serves you right” cancer, and before they understand it and can put a face on it, some withhold compassion and may even say the patients deserve it.

But no one deserves any kind of cancer. And once diagnosed, everyone deserves compassion. Just as most of us would never ask heart attack patients how much red meat they ate, or diabetics how many milkshakes they downed, or AIDS patients if they’d had unprotected sex, we shouldn’t ask people with lung cancer whether they smoked.

The most compassionate response when someone tells you she has lung cancer is, “I’m so sorry to hear that. Would you like to talk about it? I’m here to listen.”

Thank you for listening to me, and I’d ask just one more thing: that you recognize Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Though our ribbon, like our disease, is clear – or invisible, like many feel our disease is – those of us who’ve been diagnosed know how devastatingly real it is.

But there is tremendous hope for prevention, early diagnosis, new and more effective treatments, and even a cure. If you care. Which I know you do.

And, yes, I did smoke, but quit 17 years before my diagnosis.

Thank you for not asking.


Lori Hope is a writer, speaker, and author of Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know. Read her blog on CarePages.com, “What helps. What hurts. What heals.” and learn more at www.LoriHope.com.
 

Lung Cancer & Living for Today

November 20th is National Smokeout Day, and November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. This post speaks to lung cancer, the toll it takes on loved ones and the quest for a cure.

My 82-year-old mom just went through one of the most difficult experiences of her life: surgery for lung cancer.  I will say that she is amazingly resilient for all her apparent frailties, and has bounced back. In just a little over two weeks, she is chipper, happy, pain and cancer free, and has regained her twinkling smile.

While I noted that this was a most difficult experience for my mom — she stated over and over again that "I didn’t think I was going to make it," it was also an earth-moving, mind-altering experience for me. I had to see my mother in great pain. I had to watch her cry, and see her put through really tough treatments. I felt helpless, horrified, and angry at the unfairness of it all. Why the pain? Why did she need to suffer so much of it?  

Obviously, fairness has nothing to do with cancer. Sobering statistics suggest that one in three of us will be affected by cancer at some point in our lives. My mom got lung cancer — ironically she has never touched a cigarette in her life. She doesn’t drink alcohol or coffee either. Go figure.

Though the first few days were admittedly torturous for her, she is one of the lucky ones. The surgery was successful. This time, cancer didn’t win. But like most of you, I have family members and dear friends who fought the battle of cancer, and lost. It’s not a disease we can take lightly. Finding a cure is something we should all be very committed to – and I will do my part. 

But today, I am counting my blessings, living in this moment, and enjoying my mom’s smile. 

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