Folks, I have important news to share. Longtime Spinning Music contributor and guest-blogger Lisa Goldman has just been handed the fight of her life. In January 2014, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.
Lisa first guest-blogged at Spinning Music way back in 2010 when I took a mat leave from indoor cycling after having my daughter, but was a regular commenter long before that. You can find her very first guest post here. Lisa also guest-posted one my all-time favourite rides, the Sh*tload of Climbing Ride, here. Over the years, we’ve been in touch via e-mail and Facebook and discovered we have a lot more in common than our love of indoor cycling. We’re both 40-something moms of young kids, lawyers who’ve found a path outside the traditional practice of law, both with interests in nutrition, photography, reading, and a keen love of handmade ceramic mugs. If we lived closer than 6,000 km apart (that’s 3,700 miles for American readers), I know she and her husband Eric would be regulars on the back deck, and no doubt my husband Terry would do his level best to convert them from vegetarianism to his love of barbeque.
Lisa has decided to blog about her experience over at Every Breath I Take: A Blog About My Journey With Lung Cancer. She gave her permission for me to tell you about her diagnosis and link to her blog. Lisa has chosen to blog about this very personal subject for two important reasons: first, to spread awareness of the early symptoms of lung cancer (hers wasn’t caught until nearly three months after she first experienced symptoms) and second, to advocate for more attention, research and funding for this stigmatized disease and to remove the stigma. Nobody deserves to get cancer.
Early lung cancer can masquerade as a bad cold involving chest congestion, coughing and body aches. It might look like a lingering dry cough you can’t shake, or be misdiagnosed as pneumonia.
Lung cancer is the second leading cause of death in the USA yet it is the least-funded of the major cancers in terms of research dollars per death, in part because of the notion that it is self-inflicted. (In Canada, only 7% of cancer research-funding and fewer than 1% of cancer donations are directed to fighting Canada’s deadliest and most common cancer. That’s not a typo.)
Did you know that 80% of lung cancer patients are non-smokers, just like Lisa? In North America, 15-20%, like her, have never smoked? In Asia, 30-40% of lung cancer patients have never smoked. In Lisa’s words, “Lung cancer can strike anyone with lungs.” Did you know that women are 1.5 times more likely to develop lung cancer than men, and that lung cancer – not breast cancer – is the deadliest cancer for women? Did you know that an estimated 15% of all lung cancers are caused by exposure to radon gas, in our homes, schools and workplaces? Other causes include exposure to second-hand smoke, asbestos and other substances, as well as genetics. (All stats are from the Lung Cancer Canada website.)
What can you do? Lots, actually.
First, you can support Lisa by sending prayers and good vibes to her and Eric and their kids and by following her journey via her blog. Lisa’s blog is not set up to accept comments but you can send well-wishes to her by commenting on this post. I will forward a link to her when I post it, and she can sign up to receive notification of comments on the post. She is using all of her energy to fight this cancer, so she will not be able to respond to you personally, but if you ever wonder whether your support makes a difference, Lisa explains what this support means to her here.
Second, learn and memorize the early symptoms of lung cancer. Chest CT scans are the latest tool for early detection and it was a chest CT that caught Lisa’s cancer.
Third, if you or anyone you love still smokes, do whatever you can to support them in quitting. (Full disclosure: I started smoking in high school in a misguided attempt to appear cool. I quit nearly 20 years ago, but I still remember exactly how hard it is to quit. Honestly? Giving birth was easier. A lot easier. So was completing law school.)
Fourth, do what you can to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. Most North Americans now live in communities where all indoor smoking is banned in public places but if you live in another country, or with a smoker, it may still be an issue.
Fifth, find out if radon gas is a problem in your area. (It is idiosyncratic and levels can vary widely among houses on the same street.) If radon is present in your neighbourhood, get your home tested for radon gas and ask if your workplace or school has been tested. If your home, school or workplace is high in radon, effective remediation options exist.
Sixth, reach into your pocket today and make a donation to lung cancer research in your country – in Canada, you can donate online here: http://www.lungcancercanada.ca/ and in the USA, here: http://www.lungcancerfoundation.org/contribute/.
Last, talk about lung cancer. Tell the riders in your classes. Share this post. Help erase the stigma. Ask your riders to consider making a donation if they can. This blog had more than 400,000 visitors last year. If each visitor told one class of 20 riders about lung cancer and shared Lisa’s story, we would reach more than 8 million people in 189 countries. And folks, that’s a movement.
Big hugs and props to you Lisa, my dear, witty, intelligent, passionate, brave, all-round fabulous friend. F*ck cancer.