Lung cancer is a devastating disease and despite its reputation as a smoker’s disease, it affects nonsmokers as well.
One local mom is surviving stage-four lung cancer, and she is working to break down the stigma surrounding the disease.
“How do you explain to your kids that you don’t know how long you’re going to be here?”
It’s a question that Stephanie Peace, a 44-year-old mother of three, a school teacher and a nonsmoker in Cape Coral asks herself every day.
“No one deserves lung cancer. Nobody,” she said.
Her doctors diagnosed it two-and-a-half years ago.
“We want to stress that this is not a smoker’s disease,” she said.
In fact, the University of South Florida Health says 60 percent of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or have already quit smoking.
It’s something that Peace is trying to spread word about during this month which is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
“I will never be cancer-free,” she said. “Lung cancer is a crisis, and we need to spread the word.”
Doctor Luiz Pita de Oliveira is an oncologist with Lee Health.
“Up to eight percent of cases happen in non-smokers,” she said.
Even if you don’t smoke, other factors like radon, lung disease and genetics may be at play.
You should be checked out by a medical professional if you experience a chronic cough, weight loss or shortness of breath, she said.
This Thanksgiving, Peace and her husband say they are thankful to still be a family.
“I don’t know if you can be prepared for the end game if the time ever comes,” her husband said.
And they are also thankful for their insurance. Without it, one bottle of of her targeted therapy medicine would cost them $14,000.
“While I’m here, I just want to do more,” Peace said.
And that includes doing more to raise awareness and to save lives.
Peace is partnering with former NFL player Chris Draft to raise money for lung cancer research.
To learn more about the Chris Draft’s organization and how you can end lung cancer stigma, you can visit their website.
And you can find Stephanie’s campaign here.