Toni Egan and Sharon Eggerichs are first cousins from a close family. Their parents were siblings and their families spent many happy hours together on the farm where their parents grew up. Toni’s mother and Sharon’s father were the oldest of nine kids. They were always looking out for each other. When they were teenagers, Toni’s mother introduced her brother to a good friend from work, who later became her sister-in-law (Sharon’s mother).
Unfortunately, both Toni and Sharon’s mothers were diagnosed with lung cancer at young ages, and as is common with lung cancer yet today, both were diagnosed late in the game and both lost their lives to the disease. The sisters-in-law both smoked as was common in their day, before the risks were fully understood, but the cancer Toni’s mother died from was a slower growing lung cancer often found in nonsmokers (non-small cell). The late diagnosis was the challenge.
Sharon wasn’t particularly worried about lung cancer, but ten years ago, while being treated for a stomach issue, the scan caught an edge of her lung which led to further scans. Sharon was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and thanks to the accidental, early ‘catch’, was able to go through surgery to beat the disease.
Toni is a nurse by training. Because of her medical background and her familiarity with risk factors (smoking and multiple family members lost to lung cancer), she knew she was at risk of contracting the disease. She is frustrated that chest x-rays or low dose CT Scans are not done routinely, especially for people with high risk factors. When she came down with pneumonia two years ago, she insisted on a follow-up x-ray after she was well – even if she had to pay for it herself. She was diagnosed with lung cancer just a few weeks later.
Toni and Sharon are lung cancer survivors. Both had smoked and quit smoking at different points in their lives, but were lucky to be diagnosed ‘accidentally’ and in time to beat the disease. Both remember meeting other lung cancer patients while they went through treatment, many of them nonsmokers. Most lost their lives to this aggressive cancer.
“It shouldn’t be sheer luck to be diagnosed with lung cancer early enough to treat it,” Toni said.
While lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers, it is drastically underfunded compared to other cancers – mostly due to the smoking stigma. It takes more lives than breast, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined. A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation plans to change this unfair research funding disparity and the misconceptions that accompany the disease. Lung cancer can happen to anyone, and everyone deserves a chance to beat it.
Please help A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation raise money to save lives!
Toni Egan, Lung Cancer Survivor
Sharon Eggerichs, Lung Cancer Survivor