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Elizabeth Moir, shown here with her young family, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. “There is hope…there is a lot of hope,” she says.
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Lung cancer takes the lives of more women than breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer combined. However it’s low on the things-to-be-concerned-about health spectrum, with only 3 percent of women listing lung cancer as a health concern.
Over the past 41 years, lung cancer cases for women have increased 87 percent while decreasing 35 percent for men. Sadly, every five minutes a woman is diagnosed with lung cancer.
My five minutes happened five years ago when my doctor called to give me the results of my biopsy — malignant. He was shocked. I wasn’t. I had pushed hard during the prior year for a low dose CT scan because I listened to my body. While the first two scans showed only a “shadow,” the third scan showed it had grown, and a biopsy confirmed cancer. I was very lucky in that it was diagnosed early. I had the top lobe of my left lung removed, and I’m now five years cancer free.
Sadly, 30-year-old Elizabeth Moir wasn’t so fortunate. Last August, when she was eight months pregnant, she went to the ER because she was having significant trouble breathing. A chest X-ray was ordered and the doctor said it was a calcified tumor in her lower left lung.
Elizabeth’s baby was born in October and her hands were full with two young daughters to care for. By April, she was ready to resume exercising. However, when she got on the treadmill, she became quickly winded. When she coughed up blood, she went to the doctor who put her on antibiotics for 10 days and told her to come back in early May.
The Monday after Derby, she returned to the doctor, complaining of being tired, which was attributed to being a mother to two young daughters and returning to her job. However, she was referred to a pulmonologist who ordered a CT scan, which led to her Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. Medical staff frequently asked if she had smoked, and she finally replied, “I guess I should have!”
Elizabeth is currently taking an oral chemotherapy and is remaining as positive as possible. She has made it her mission to raise awareness about early detection and lung cancer in women. “Lung cancer is stigmatized. It’s associated with smoking, ” she says. Yet more than 20 percent of women who are diagnosed have never smoked.
Much research is being done on more effective and less taxing treatment protocols as well as early detection methods. Funding is critical to make this happen. “There is so much ground to make up from a lack of funding. There have been three drugs approved in the last three years that directly impact the survival rates of those diagnosed with late stage lung cancer. That is more than any other type of cancer. When you donate, your money is helping people immediately,” she says.
Elizabeth, who volunteers with the Lung Cancer Foundation, says building a support system is important. “There is hope…there is a lot of hope. I was speaking with someone who found my story through the Lung Cancer Foundation and so there is a big presence on Facebook. Connecting with other people in our same situation has helped me and others deal with the gravity of the situation.”
Go here for more information on how you can.
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