SANGER — In 2008, newlywed Jon Filbert was looking forward to a good life ahead of him when his doctor tearfully told him things were going to be different.
Filbert was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“I had just gotten married then,” he recalled. “I told them I had a mortgage to pay and I am too busy to die.”
Four years later, Filbert credits the LUNGevity Foundation with helping him and others diagnosed with lung cancer to cope, be strong and survive the disease.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death regardless of gender or ethnicity.
“The first question I got from everybody was ‘did you smoke?’” he said. “My response was ‘does it matter? If I did smoke, I deserved this?’”
Filbert said he found how LUNGevity deals with the smoking issue refreshing.
“Any time I have reached out for help, whether I smoked has never come up,” he said. “It’s nice to know that they’re out there.”
Filbert participated in a number of events in the state that brought together people diagnosed with the disease, families of the patients and caregivers and gave them a chance to get help from the foundation.
Filbert had already battled thyroid cancer and said he really didn’t have any preconceived notion about lung cancer.
“The biggest thing I knew was 90 percent of the people diagnosed die from it.” he said. “I had no idea until I got involved that lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer.”
According to LUNGevity, lung cancer kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer and more than three times as many men as prostate cancer, with about 55 percent of new diagnoses among people who never smoked or are former smokers.
“When I found out I had lung cancer, the doctor after my surgery walked in with tears,” Filbert said. “If I did not have the support from LUNGevity, I wouldn’t be as active.”
Filbert said the organization is vital to the community for the work it does.
“What they are doing is reaching out to the person surviving and dealing with the cancer and reaching out to the caretakers and friends and saying ‘you’re not alone,’” he said.
Andrea Stern Ferris, president of the LUNGevity Foundation, said that the organization is the largest one related to support and research surrounding the disease.
“We have the largest research grant program, early detection and targeted therapies with the hope of accelerating the science to get it to the patient ASAP.”
There’s an online support community, peer-to-peer support network, message boards, phone buddies matched by gender, age and stage of diagnosis, an online caregiver resource center and experts available to answer questions and distill complex medical information.
“People feel very isolated when they get the diagnosis, even though it’s the most diagnosed. It’s kind of an odd paradox,” Ferris said.
Ferris’ mother was diagnosed and died from lung cancer in 2008.
Noting that she didn’t know much about lung cancer herself before her mother’s diagnosis, Ferris said the most important thing to do is educate the public.
“Telling them there is hope, being active, funding research that can change the course of the disease and that they are not alone, I think that’s the best thing we can do,” she said.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .