It's challenging to be a Breath Cancer survivor during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What's Breath Cancer? It's 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 you're wondering if I smoked. Did you know that up to 20% of people with Breath Cancer never smoked, 60% don't currently smoke, and most of us wince at the question?
People don't ask Breast Cancer survivors whether they're 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 it's usually caused by smoking -- which like overeating, is a lifestyle choice -- most fighting the disease don't smoke. But that shouldn't 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?
It's 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 won't 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 that's why only 15% of us live longer than five years. That's unfair. So please. Care.
And by the way, yes, I smoked, but quit almost 20 years before my diagnosis. Regardless, don't 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 cancer features on Beliefnet:
Causes Lori Hope Supports
The Beverly Fund
The Lung Cancer Alliance
Women's Cancer Resource Center
The National Lung Cancer Partnership
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