October’s favorites are more about looking forward to November than reflecting on the learnings of October. It is about recognizing and honoring those with lung cancer and becoming more aware of how we speak to those with cancer. And it is how we can teach our future leaders to reframe traditional roles – in business and in life.
Lung cancer awareness
Both my parents had lung cancer. Both have now passed as a result. And through their experience, I found out how underfunded lung cancer research is compared to breast, prostate, and colon cancer – yet it results in more deaths each year than all three of these combined.
According to the American Cancer Society:
Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer). In men, prostate cancer is more common, while in women breast cancer is more common.
The ACS estimates for lung cancer in the US for 2020 are:
- About 228,820 new cases of lung cancer (116,300 in men and 112,520 in women)
- About 135,720 deaths from lung cancer (72,500 in men and 63,220 in women)
Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people. Ost people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older; a very small number of people diagnosed are younger than 45. The average age of people when diagnosed is about 70. Both my parents were over 80 when they were diagnosed.
Choose your words wisely
If you know someone with cancer, think about how you speak of their cancer. Not all people view their cancer as a battle or a war to be fought. Some are bothered by the use of those terms. My mother had an attitude about her cancer that was nothing short of miraculous to me…. She always just said… I have it, I can’t change that. I just have to keep going day-to-day and do what I need to do to stay feeling good and hopefully maintain or slow the growth. She was very matter of fact about it. There were no battles for her to fight or wars to win.
I become acutely aware of the use of these terms when a member of my family called my mom a victim. I can close my eyes and be transported back to the exact moment when I heard that statement. It stung. I don’t think my Mom even heard it.
I had just spent four months with my Mom. Watching her recover from chemo treatments that caused her to lose her appetite and her hair, radiation treatments that were over quickly but overtime caused significant fatigue and when all treatments were done – six years ago almost to the day of when I am recording this episode – she had pneumonia. But she was determined to go home – back to South Dakota to her own home, to the comforts of her own bed, her own recliner, her own kitchen and out of my home where she thought she had become a burden to me and my family. Even during her worst days, she was never a victim.
So I encourage you to follow the lead of those you know with cancer – if they say they are in the fight for their life, or a battle or waging a war with their cancer – then by all means, join them in that fight. But if they don’t use those words to describe their journey, do not put that label on them. It is not fair to them. And it may cause a layer of psychological stress they do not need to or want to handle. They have enough on their plate as it is. Links to articles that talk about the negative impact war terminology has on cancer patients are listed below.
Lead from the bench
Brene Brown’s new podcast – Dare to Lead – debuted a couple of weeks ago. Both episodes are worth listening to but was drawn into her conversation with Abby Wambach about her book Wolfpack. This book is now on my reading list and so is the young adult version for my daughter’s benefit.
I share three of the roles that Abby recommends reframing but the one that had the most impact on me was to lead from the bench. It is her way of saying that we can be a leader at any time, at any place, or in any role we may have in life. We still have the opportunity to lead and should not miss our opportunity.
This example reminds me of Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last. In that, he shares how in the military, the ranking officers always eat after their troops have eaten. They recognize that the troops have the harder job to do – they need the nourishment and the energy that comes from it, so they stay behind for the benefit of the team.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Key statistics for lung cancer, American Cancer Society
- Lung cancer statistics, Lungevity
- Lung cancer: 29 statistics and figures, Lung Cancer Foundation of America
- Research facts and underfunding, A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation
- Choose your words wisely (with links to articles on the use of war terminology to describe cancer)
- ‘War on cancer’ metaphors may do harm, research shows, The Guardian
- Is cancer a battle? Is your patient a fighter? Here’s why war metaphors may backfire
- Brene with Abby Wambach on the New Rules of Leadership
- Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek
- Support lung cancer:
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