Months ago, at Genentech, I sat in a room with about 9 other Lung Cancer Survivors. Pretty much the only thing I had in common with the other survivors was being a survivor of Lung Cancer.
We discussed many topics around treatment and care. One topic, The Lung Cancer Stigma, was only touched on briefly. Probably a good thing since the whole group got pretty revved up by this one. Honestly, I still am.
The stigma that lung cancer is a self-inflicted disease caused by smoking is very much alive and thriving in the general public. Many people and organizations are going above and beyond the call of duty to change this.
What makes me bothered are two things that I see survivors doing. 1. They introduce themselves as non-smokers with lung cancer and; 2. They are saying they too, are equally as frustrated with the stigma.
Is it because someone hears that you have lung cancer, therefore she must think you deserve it? What about every time you state, “I’m a non-smoker with Lung Cancer,” you make a former smoker with lung cancer think, “I guess they didn’t deserve it, but do they think I do?”.
I hate the topic of smoking status. I avoid it like…well…cancer if I could! It could be because I can’t say, “I’m a never smoker.” Or, is it because I see the look on a former smoker/survivors face when someone says, “I have lung cancer and I’m a never smoker.”?
I accept that all humans have their own opinions on the topic of smoking, lung cancer, and the Lung Cancer Stigma. The only behavior I can control, though, is my own.