Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Love your Lungs!

Pic from Heather Von St. James and mesothelioma.com
Did you know November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month? Well, I didn't until I was contacted by mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St. James (Twitter @HeatherVSJ) who is an advocate and blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. She, along with us healthy lifestyle bloggers, are working to bring awareness to these preventable lung diseases throughout November and all year long.

Heather was a healthy, 36-year old brand-new mom when she started experiencing weird symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, loss of strength and trouble breathing. She was ultimately diagnosed with mesothelioma and given 15 months to live. Never a smoker, doctors attributed her cancer to exposure to asbestos as a child. Heather underwent an experimental surgery that removed her left lung. That experimental surgery and subsequent treatments gave her a life she never thought she would see. She just celebrated her 10th year as a cancer survivor and is dedicated to raising awareness of mesothelioma and other lung cancers (they're not just smokers' diseases anymore!) and helping others affected by these diseases.

According to the National Cancer Institute, lung cancers are the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Lung cancers have touched my life too. This month marks the 5th anniversary of the loss of my great mentor, running coach and friend, Mike Broderick, who died just weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010. And my mom's cousin is battling lung cancer as we speak. When they hear someone has lung cancer, people automatically assume the person was a smoker. But this isn't always the case. Thousands of people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked but have been exposed to second- and third-hand smoke. Others have been exposed to pollutants such as radon and toxic materials such as asbestos (and exposure to asbestos can also be second-hand, as in Heather's case).

In addition to never smoking or quitting ASAP, there are ways you can prevent these lung diseases by loving your lungs and keeping them healthy. In case you can't read the graphic below, they include:

  • Practicing deep breathing exercises
  • Staying properly hydrated
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting your exposure to pollutants such as radon gas and asbestos
  • Monitoring your family's history and any symptoms of lung cancer, asthma, COPD and other lung diseases. 

Pic from Heather Von St. James and mesothelioma.com
Take care of those lungs, people! Go for a walk, go for a run. Make sure you limit your exposure to known pollutants whenever possible. Do the best you can to live a long, healthy life!

You can read more about Heather, lung cancer and mesothelioma on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance website.

2 comments:

  1. Oh wow - I had no idea that it was lung cancer awareness month! This is such an informative post - something everyone should take time to read!

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    1. Thanks Rachel! I think it's important to understand that smoking isn't the only way to get lung cancer and more and more non-smokers are being diagnosed. Gotta love your lungs and keep them healthy!

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