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Vidant Health aims to increase awareness about lung cancer

November 14, 2016 by Beth Anne Atkins

GREENVILLE – A routine morning at the gym proved to be anything but routine for Beaufort County native Pamela Black. After being unable to remember her boxing combination, her trainer of four years thought something seemed “off” with Black’s behavior. Later in the day, her “brain wouldn’t talk to her hand,” and she couldn’t write her name.

She had an MRI where four tumors were discovered in her brain, and a biopsy was done. She was diagnosed with non-smoker stage IV lung cancer at age 43. The main tumor was in her lungs.

“Physicians gave me six weeks to live. Two years later, I’m tumor free,” said Black. “Beating the six week expectancy changed by perspective on life. I’m thankful to wake up every day and be alive.”

Lung cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in both men and women, and it’s also the leading cause of cancer death in the country. Nearly 60 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer are people who have never smoked or are former smokers. Lung cancer is responsible for nearly one in five cancer deaths. It claims more lives yearly than breast, colon, prostate and kidney cancer combined.

“More than 80 percent of patients who go untreated for stage one and two lung cancer will be dead in five years; this is why awareness and screening saves lives,” said Dr. Mark Bowling, director of interventional pulmonology, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “If surgery is performed within eight weeks on stage one cancer, there is a 92 percent chance that person will be alive in 10 years.”

In North Carolina, 22 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every day. The five year survival rate is just 16 percent, a rate that has changed very little since the 1970s. But Vidant Cancer Care and the renowned thoracic oncology team at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center are on a mission to raise awareness and make a difference for those facing this disease.

“Awareness is important, so that other folks hearing my story and the symptoms I had will seek treatment and talk about their concerns and not just brush it off because it’s a real thing,” said Black.

To increase awareness about lung cancer, Vidant Health is hosting a free dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 6-8 p.m. at Rock Springs Center, to discuss how pioneering therapies and frontier research here in Greenville bring new hope to those living with lung cancer.

The keynote speaker is former NFL player, Chris Draft, who lost his young wife to lung cancer. In 2011, his wife, Keasha, a Clemson University graduate, former track star and dancer with the Charlotte Hornets Honeybees, died from lung cancer — despite being a healthy and active non-smoker in her 30s. They had been married just a month. During her year-long struggle, she and Draft started the Team Draft initiative to save lives by changing the face of lung cancer.

Draft has been recognized for his contributions on and off the field. Through his charitable foundation, he has sought to raise awareness that lung cancer can strike anyone, to improve access to screenings and enhance the lives of lung cancer survivors. He is also the founder and CEO of the Chris Draft Family Foundation whose mission has been to empower families to lead healthy lifestyles. He is an internationally recognized speaker, community leader and family and character advocate who serves as an NFL ambassador and a national spokesperson on many health-related issues.

Space at the dinner is limited. Please call 1-855-MY VIDANT or go to www.vidanthealth.com/lungcancer to reserve a spot.

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