On an Aspect of Health

This story started early last November (2011) as we were at our first handbell rehearsal after returning from cruising the southern Caribbean. We only missed one rehearsal, but it still good to see our handbell friends. At the end of the rehearsal, my wife and one other choir member convinced our dear friend that she needed to get return to the doctor to tell them that whatever they gave her was not working.

By the end of the week, our friend and her husband went to the hospital for routine x-rays. Doctors admitted her and eventually diagnosed her with lung cancer. She never smoked and never had any other cancer. We never saw her again as she died three weeks later at age 56. Her passing was difficult for us, and some of you may remember I shared my feelings along this journey – and eventually dedicated this post to her.

This past February I celebrated my 59th birthday – thus I am now older than my mother who passed away one month short of 59. Yes, it was cancer. She smoked for many years, but after a breast cancer diagnosis and a radical mastectomy, she stopped smoking – but in the end, liver cancer shortened her life. I spoke at her funeral, thus recounted that journey in a three-part post starting here (for anyone interested).

Also in early November, a handbell player unexpectedly left the choir because of her out-of-town mother’s health issues. Recently, and out-of-the-blue, doctors diagnosed our former handbell player with lung cancer. That news is relatively new, so we don’t know about her prognosis. Nonetheless, many are shocked.

I find it interesting that we hear so much about breast cancer, yet my wife recently heard that more women die of lung cancer than breast cancer. With the recent news and because I wanted verification, I found this graph from the American Cancer Society. (The full report)

Because the Dancing with the Stars is what got us interested in taking ballroom dance classes, it’s no surprise that we regularly watch the show. We love the waltz, and this one by professionals Anna Trebunskaya and Jonathan Roberts (a married couple) is wonderful; however, as the video shows, there is more to the story. As I end this post linking handbells, ballroom dance, friends, relatives, and cancer, I hope you take four more minutes for this video and consider telling others about this post.

42 thoughts on “On an Aspect of Health

  1. My grandfather passed away from lung cancer. I’m betting that many of your readers have been affected by it in one way or another as well. This is definitely an issue that needs more awareness. Thank you for a great reminder of this ever-present epidemic. I had no idea of the statistics below and will certainly pass this on (especially to my smoker friends). Thank you again.

    • Unastronomer,
      Welcome first-time commenter and thanks for sharing your story. I’m confident that lung cancer has affected many people in one way or another, and so far, the comments here support that; so this is my small contribution about increasing awareness. BTW, see the linked report from the American Cancer Society for statistics regarding males. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  2. My mother passed away at 64 due to lung cancer likely brought on by smoking. But your post carries the same important message that my mother’s doctor told us. In his practice one third of lung cancer patients had never smoked. I really hate when people say oh so and so had lung cancer and smoked. Actually, a good number are getting lung cancer due to second hand smoke and all the other strange pollutants in our air. Sorry to hear the sad news.

    • Randel,
      Our November loss was one of the most gut-wrenching in my life. Then when the same small group of people get the second wave of shocking news in less than 6 months, POW! Yet I wrote this post to inform rather than to lament. Not only thanks for commenting, but a special thanks for sharing an experience very close to you.

  3. Hi,
    I am sorry that you have received bad news about your friend. I have also lost friends to cancer, and I just felt so helpless, none of my friends smoked, in the case of one friend there was a history of cancer in the family.

    A really nice video, I also enjoy watching Dancing with the Stars, I don’t see every episode, but I watch it when I can. :)

    • Mags,
      No doubt that genetics is an important factor. In the two recent cases close to us, I don’t know. Glad you enjoyed the video. It was actually last week, and seeing it was the final domino that sparked the idea for the post …. and then everything fell in place. Thanks for commenting and sharing your loss as well.

  4. Wow, Frank, that graph was enlightening. Our good friend’s wife died of lung cancer too–he’s an orthopedic surgeon and it was rough. I was happy to see colorectal cancer going down on the chart. Gotta be thankful every day huh?
    Hope you had a great Easter.

    • Les,
      The graphic surely answered by question about the statistics. BTW, the linked report also has the accompanying graph for males. Thanks for visiting and for sharing a loss close to you.

  5. I didn’t know that more woman die of lung cancer than breast cancer. I am sorry to hear about all of your losses. And I appreciate you raising awareness and sharing your experiences.

    • TBM,
      The second round of news within a group of 12-14 people (our handbell choir) in a few months is what sparked the post, and yes, the stats also surprised me. Then the DWTS dance tribute was the icing of the cake to do this post. Everyone knows awareness is important, so this is my way of doing a small part. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  6. That was so moving Frank. I am so saddened for this couple that is facing the ultimate test. I hope things go well for them. There just seems to be so much cancer around these days and despite all the research and all the fundraising and all the donations, we seem to be losing too many good people xx

    • Spiced,
      Many thanks. The fight against cancer is both noble and painfully slow. No matter how much we know about it today, there is still much to learn … yet, compared to the knowledge available since the mid-1980s, we’ve learned a lot. Meanwhile, I think we start to notice it more as we get older because we start to take notice because it’s impacting those closer to us. Nonetheless, the fight must continue. As for our current couple, facing the unknown must be terrifying. Thanks for commenting on this important topic.

  7. Very sorry for your loss, neighbor!

    Mu husband is an advanced stage Melanoma survivor. He was diagnosed at the age of 33. He is now 4 1/2 years clean and we are very thankful for that.

    I agree that Lung Cancer, as well as Melanoma, do not get enough public attention and it makes no sense to me as to ‘why’!

  8. I am sorry to hear about all of your losses, dear Frank. You made an important point for cancer. I haven’t known too lung cancer more than breast! And even with no smoking… But made me to think this now, what about the air we breathe…. should be something for this… And yes, we don’t get enough public attention for lung cancer… I am afraid behind of this there is air quality problem… or something else… Just an idea.

    Thanks dear Frank, and my prayers for your losses… Love, nia

    • Nia,
      Although the two losses are in the past, people don’t forget those who touched one’s life. So to them, as well as our those facing the fight, I see this post as both a tribute and a public service announcement. Sometimes in life’s messages converge on us with hopes that we catch the message – and in this case, I think I did – thus it was important to share. Now, I don’t know why there is so much lung cancer in nonsmokers. Yes, second-hand smoke is an effect. Yes, over all air quality is an effect. Yes, genetics is an effect, and yes, I hope that medical research conquers lung cancer. I may not today, but hopefully someday. Thanks for commenting.

  9. There are so many different types of cancer that don’t get any media attention.. and most of them need it. I am always glad to see a celebrity bring attention to some, but unfortunately the trend seems to be for everyone to jump on one cause and forget about others. I think we all should back causes that might not even relate to use.. you never know when they actually might. Thanks for writing this Frank, and I’m sure our loved ones are looking down on us smiling :)

  10. yes I saw the tribute …I was tearful. I too am baffled over this disease. I know several people (all non smokers) who passed away from lung cancer. In addition I get baffled with my dad’s bladder cancer. They asked if he was a heavy smoker all of his life ..answer NO! However, now they are finding out toxic exposure to especially lead paint is main contributor to bladder cancer. The navy had military guys paint the aircraft carrier he was in on during down days in WWII. My dad has donated his bladder and two other parts they removed to research.

    • Kellie,
      Baffling is a good word, yet I believe researchers are trying, but that in itself is such a slow process. You have share the battle in your own family before, so strength to you and your mother, as well as your dad during his battle. Thanks for sharing!

  11. There are many causes of lung cancer beyond smoking, asbestos exposure being one of the leading ones (along with lead as mentioned above). Not to mention the military folk who are suffering from Agent Orange exposure. My greatest fear is for the soldiers from Desert Storm in the next few years – the depleted-uranium anti-tank rounds they shot scattered radioactive debris about the battlefield, along with the unknown effects from the fallout of the oil field fires. The next 10-15 years will be telling.
    And for the other half of my personal rant, there are far more cancers than most people think about. We lost the lovely and talented Farrah Fawcett to anal cancer, something few people even knew existed. As we live longer and manage to survive other forms of disease, cancer is far more commonly rearing its’ ugly head.
    Oh, just so you know – I lost both my mother-in-law and father-in-law to cancer that metastisized from breast and lung cancer, respectively. And my mother to diabetes-related difficulties. So I know a bit about how you feel, my friend. Even if I am just a young whelp, trailing you by 10 years and 9 months. ;)

    • John,
      Well said about the various environmental causes of cancer, especially those associated with military-related exposures. Meanwhile, as the graph only shows the top 7 or so cancers for women, see page 3 of the linked full report for a long list of types. Whew! Thanks for sharing your stories as well, after all, cancer has taken many people close to us. Thanks for commenting.

  12. My sympathies to you Frank, across the board for all of these losses.

    Cancer is a frightening diagnosis, no matter where it is located. I think that breast cancer gets more press because so often it is findable and treatable in the early stages. And there have been effective advocates for it. Colon cancer, too is preventable and treatable. Other cancers are less so.

    I have been going to post about a different type of cancer, but haven’t gotten to finish the research. I have some work to do.

    • Elyse,
      Thanks for your kind words. Good point about the relationship between the amount of press and detecting and treating the early stages. Oh so many stories to tell, and I will look forward to yours. Thanks for commenting.

  13. Well, if you can watch that video and keep a dry eye…you can’t! I am so very sorry to read of your personal losses. We have two very good friends struggling right now with very serious Cancer diagnoses, and then we also have friends who have “come back” from the very brink of death. It’s sobering and very frightening and I think we all face our own “what would we do” moments when we walk closely with friends through this dark valley. I think the stories that shake me up the most are like what you shared about your good friend…took good care of herself, yet died within a couple of weeks of being diagnosed and at 56! I do feel a heavy sadness for those left behind who grieve that loss. An important post, Frank. Debra

    • Debra,
      The one of the good friend in November still shakes me up. Meanwhile, I focus on trying to be a positive voice for her surviving spouse. I used my stories because there is something in them that anyone can relate to … and it seems you have – so many thanks for sharing your story.

      Interesting point about the video is that when I first saw it, I had not seen the story behind the dance. Even then, at the end of the dance I wondered if she died. Then I saw the whole story, and oh my … the dots were connected – and I wrote this post shortly thereafter. Many thanks Debra for stopping by.

  14. Having received some very beautiful comments from you on my blog, I was hoping that I could make an intelligent comment on your blog too… for I do read your blog occasionally, but it is usually a window into a world I know nothing about. I didn’t see cartoons as a child. Nor do I know very much about American politics. Here at last, I thought that I would find common experiences with you… but I must admit that though I’m more than a decade older than yourself, I still haven’t reached the age at which my father died, and my mother is still alive at 101, and complains that she’s had enough, and wishes that god would take her already… Even so, let me take this opportunity to tell you that not only do I appreciate your comments, but that it is fascinating for me to read your views of America. Thank you very much.

    • Shimon,
      I appreciate the life and wisdom you share on your blog, so I will take whatever visits I can get from you. You may recall that the first post I visited on your blog was about religion and science … and I invite you to visit that category in my sidebar.

      Blessings to your mother and thanks for sharing!

      • Thank you very much for your patience and kindness in pointing out what might be more understandable to me. I have read a few of the posts in religion and science, and agree with your point of view, and am happy to have found common ground with you. It is a pleasure getting to know you better.

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