LiveLung is a Dusty Joy Foundation initiative. Founded in 2010 by lung cancer survivor and advocate Dusty Donaldson, Dusty Joy Foundation is a non-profit organization serving the lung cancer community and the public. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) IRS designated public charity comprising a board of directors, board of advisors and an executive director. All currently serve as volunteers. Our mission is to promote lung cancer education, early detection and compassion for those impacted by lung cancer.
“You have lung cancer.”
Those four words will be spoken to more than 225,000 Americans this year. And with a dismal 15% survival rate, lung cancer patients face the fight of their lives. Before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, lung cancer will claim more than 160,000 American lives.
As if the diagnosis itself were not sufficiently devastating, lung cancer patients are stigmatized during the most critical time of their lives. “Do you smoke?” is the most common response received by those who reveal their diagnosis. That question blames patients for causing their disease through socially unacceptable behavior: smoking.
Whether they smoked or not, the question implies the patient is to blame for the disease. Researchers at University of Oxford studied this phenomenon. “Stigma, shame, and blame experienced by patients with lung cancer: Qualitative study” published in the June 23, 2004 issue of British Medical Journal, found that lung cancer patients felt stigmatized “whether they smoked or not.” The researchers also concluded that “Interaction with family, friends, and doctors was often affected as a result, and many patients, particularly those who had stopped smoking years ago or had never smoked, felt unjustly blamed for their illness.” The stigma contributed to patients concealing their illness, and living with heightened fear and anxiety.
However, approximately 65 percent of Americans diagnosed with lung cancer do not smoke. Half already quit, most more than a decade ago. Moreover, between 15% and 20% never smoked. Those who experience the sting of lung cancer’s stigma—and virtually all lung cancer patients do—suffer on a personal level. But the problem is much greater than hurt feelings.
On a national level, the stigma of lung cancer has created a culture of research disparity. Lung cancer is the number 1 cancer killer. It kills more people than breast, colon, prostate, liver and kidney cancers combined. Yet, lung cancer is the least funded of all major cancers in terms of federal research dollars.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 21,000 Americans will die from radon-induced lung cancer this year. That’s more than will die from home fires, home falls, drowning, drunk driving or AIDS.
Make no mistake: Smoking is the greatest risk factor for developing lung cancer. However, nearly twice as many Americans who never smoked die from lung cancer than from AIDS (28,000 and 14,110, respectively see www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/us.htm).
These comparisons are intended to shed light on the justification for increased lung cancer research. AIDS research has saved untold thousands from what used to be certain death. Breast cancer research has resulted in great advances in treatment and increased survivorship. No one wants to take away from these just causes. We want lung cancer included cancer with these successes.
The Dusty Joy Foundation helps educate the public concerning the facts that anyone can get lung cancer and everyone deserves compassion—including smokers.
The Foundation is founded on the premise that the lack of compassion has led to the lack of research funding for lung cancer, and thus, the high death rate. This Foundation does not conduct research; however, through education, raised awareness and compassion, we believe our programs will help pave the way for increased lung cancer research funding.
LiveLung, a Dusty Joy Foundation program, is a web portal serving the national lung cancer community. We hope to help develop and strengthen the lung cancer community by recruiting volunteers and matching them to a suitable lung cancer nonprofit.
Thank you for your support!