On Sunday, September 26th I will be walking 26.2 miles in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk: Your Way to raise funds for lung cancer research in memory of my husband Mitch. Although we are experiencing the joy and freedom of the end of the Covid lockdown, the Jimmy Fund thought it best to repeat the guidelines of the 2020 walk, allowing us the choice to walk “our way.” This year Team Mitch will be walking a week before the actual scheduled event so that my daughter can attend parent’s weekend at the University of Delaware where my grandson Zach will be beginning his sophomore year (in person!). I have wonderful memories of the trek to Ithaca for parent’s weekends with Mitch. We loved those get-aways, and would sing along to our cassette tapes for entertainment as we traveled (without our kids in the car, we were able to do that). More on that later.
This past year we’ve heard too many sobering facts about Covid and the loss of people. Not to pile on, but here are some of the very sad facts about lung cancer and lung cancer screening:
- Despite the many advances in lung cancer therapy, it remains the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in America.
- According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force only about 2% to 16% of eligible patients (heavy smokers between the ages of 50 and 80) get screened for lung cancer, as compared to breast and colon cancer screening rates that approach 70%.
- Approximately 47% of lung cancer cases are not diagnosed until a late stage when the survival rate is 6%.
- Worldwide, 15% of male lung cancer patients and half of female lung cancer patients are never-smokers.
- The proportion of never-smoker non-small cell lung cancer patients increased from 8.0% in the years 1990 to 1995 to 14.9% in 2011 to 2013.
- At this time, screening is not recommended for never-smokers because the costs of doing so are deemed greater than the benefits.
- In a recent study, lung cancer screening helped to detect a significant number of lung cancers in never-smokers. Almost 93% of these lung cancers were detected at Stage 1 were the 5 year survival rate is 63%.
- The conclusion of those who conducted the above-mentioned study was that future research should consider the value of lung cancer screening in the never-smoker population.
This year Team Mitch will be supporting the research of Dr. Jacob Sands whose research focuses on improved diagnostics and treatments for non-small cell lung cancer as well as improving lung screening and assisting in the development of lung screening programs throughout the country.
To get back to singing in the car… I recall one time when we were singing along to Crosby Stills and Nash having a great time trying to harmonize along with them. We were so engrossed in our singing that we missed our exit. To my chagrin, Mitch decided to back up on the highway to get us back on track. How I miss him.
I hope you’ll consider supporting Team Mitch by walking or contributing. You can contribute on line, at http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/SherrieBarlas-2021 or by sending a check made out to Jimmy Fund Marathon Walk to me at 11 Indian Dawn, Wayland, Massachusetts 01778.
I cannot imagine that any of you reading this letter have not been touched by cancer. Please help me fight this horrific disease. Please do it for Mitch. Please do it for your loved ones. Please do it for yourself.
With hope and love, Sherrie