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Stopping Lung Cancer Together

  • May 16 2014

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    Stopping Lung Cancer Together

    Susan Smedley Gerber, left, with other lung cancer survivors at the 2013 Tacoma Free to Breathe event.

    Over the past week, as I’ve been working closely with our volunteer event chairs across the country to drive the movement to double lung cancer survival, lung cancer leapt into the national spotlight. It had a face; a name and a voice.  It was on morning news shows and on social media.

    The coverage was a result of the American Lung Association launching their new Lung Force Campaign.

    I have just one word: Bravo.

    As a survivor, I am so inspired that the ALA, an organization with a longstanding tradition of commitment to general lung health, has stepped forward to commit resources and garner attention for a disease that claims nearly twice as many women’s lives as breast cancer each year.

    For those of you who don’t know me, I was diagnosed with lung cancer when I was 32, and a brand new mom. The diagnosis rocked my world and that of everyone who knew me.  It challenged everything we thought we knew about lung cancer and who is at risk of developing it.  It made me look at life, relationships and time differently.

    I understand firsthand what this disease can take. And I also know firsthand what good treatments can give back. For me, that was more precious time to see my daughter and son grow up.

    I take that gift seriously and am conscious not to squander it.  I have worked with Free to Breathe, first as a volunteer and now as a staff member, because I know I was one of the lucky ones. I want to help give that same opportunity to other women like me, and to every person – husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, and the best of friends – who this disease has tried so desperately to take from us.

    The ALA’s Lung Force campaign shows that the energy and passion that many of you have displayed as you’ve worked with Free to Breathe over the past 12 years is finally pushing lung cancer into the national spotlight, and that our voices ARE being heard.

     To all of you who’ve been so devoted to Free to Breathe and this national movement we’ve been integral in catalyzing: Thank you. Thank you for raising awareness in our communities, helping patients get the resources they need and fundraising to fuel the research that saves lives. Thank you for not giving up.

    And now, we have celebrity attention! To Kellie Pickler, Jewel and Valerie Harper: thank you for joining our movement. Thank you for recognizing the power of speaking up, and the difference we can all make when we work together. When people find their voice and speak their truth, we all benefit.

    But we’re not there yet.

    Free to Breathe will continue working with our existing partners on initiatives like our collaboratively funded research grants and the Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium. We’ll also continue seeking out new ways to partner with other cancer organizations. This cause is too big for one individual or organization to tackle alone, so we are grateful to ALA for their effort and welcome their voice to the chorus.

    And I can assure you that as we all move forward, I, and the rest of the staff, Board, volunteers and advocates involved with Free to Breathe, won’t rest until every person who hears the words “You have lung cancer” has options, and most importantly, hope.

    Join Susan and Free to Breathe in the quest to double survival by 2022!


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