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Tom Davis, Vice President

During the LUNGevity Hope Summit, one-by-one, survivors rose to tell their stories—all compelling, deeply personal and highly revealing. Every survivor’s story was touching, but one stayed with me in a way that caused me to repeat it several times over the ensuing days.

This woman talked about getting lung cancer when she was still in high school.  A boy who lived next door had taken cigarettes from his parents’ house, and the two of them found a place to hide and smoke one, a coming of age experience not unknown to countless numbers of kids from many generations. Some time thereafter she got a persistent cough, and when days gave ways to weeks, and she felt only worse, her parents took her to the family doctor, who sent her to the hospital. The diagnosis? Lung cancer. She and her parents were in complete disbelief. Her parents did most of the talking with the doctor, but at one point she dazedly asked whether the one cigarette she smoked might have given her lung cancer. The doctor glanced at her and said “probably.” She was stricken with guilt, and spent the next several decades of her life suppressing the memories, but always believing that she’d given herself lung cancer and deserved no sympathy.

Finally, she came to understand that the possibility that a single cigarette smoked with weeks of her diagnosis caused her lung cancer was most unlikely. She now understood in a very profound way how terrible the burden of guilt associated with lung cancer can be, and how unfair it is for anyone to have to carry.