Lung Cancer Awareness: One Reason I Write

lung cancer awareness

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What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

November is lung cancer awareness month. So, it’s fitting that this month, Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group has asked the question, “What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?”

I write to educate, advocate, and change people’s perspectives. In particular, I write about cancer and living with cancer. In October of 2012, my husband discovered hardened enlarged lymph nodes above his left collar bone. He was 51, healthy, and the father of 6 children (3 of whom were still young). He’d never smoked, yet, his doctors soon diagnosed him with stage IV lung cancer. Our world turned upside down.

At the time my husband was diagnosed, he had none of the symptoms you associated with lung cancer, no cough, no trouble breathing. He had terrible back pain that he thought was from a pulled muscle. In fact, the pain was due to cancer that had already spread to his spinal cord.

When he felt those lumps, he immediately called to get an appointment with the doctor. We would have to wait 3 long days for that appointment. In the meantime, we searched the internet for answers. All of the reputable websites suggested that his symptoms were consistent with metastatic lung cancer.

We kept looking. There was no way it could be lung cancer. Dan had never smoked. He was a realtor and a pastor. He wasn’t working around respiratory hazards. We were wrong. Non-smokers get lung cancer too.

False Assumptions: Real Facts

Most people assume that they don’t need to worry about lung cancer. While most women are aware of their risk of breast cancer, a recent survey that looked at awareness and perceptions about lung health showed that 98% of women don’t even have lung cancer on their health radar. 78% of women don’t know that lung cancer has killed more women than breast cancer each year since 1987. It’s time to raise lung cancer awareness.

Take the Lung Cancer Awareness Quiz

What is your Lung Cancer Awareness? Take this 6 question quiz to find out!

Here are some more facts about lung cancer from the American Lung Association:

  • The World Health Organization reports that with 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths in 2012, lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide. It’s also the deadliest.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the U.S.
  • An estimated 158,080 Americans will die from lung cancer in 2016, accounting for approximately 27 percent of all cancer deaths.
  • More than 1/2 of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.
  • The reason lung cancer so deadly is because it is usually asymptomatic until it has metastasized (spread throughout the body).
  • For metastatic lung cancer (cancer that has spread to other organs) the five-year survival rate is only 4 percent.
  • Since only 16 % of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, more than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. Early detection is essential.
  • Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers accounting for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
  • Another cause of lung cancer is asbestos, Nonsmoking asbestos workers are 5X more likely to develop lung cancer than non­smokers not exposed to asbestos. If you’re a smoker and you’ve been exposed to asbestos, your risk of developing lung cancer increases 50 fold.

During the month of November, I will be trying to raise lung cancer awareness, since it is a cancer that has forever changed the lives of my husband and myself, our children, and our family.


About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer, is available on

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