It’s Not Covid? It’s Lung Cancer?
A lung cancer diagnosis was the shocker to the year Annabelle Gurwitch already had going in 2020. She went to have a Covid test and left with a lung cancer diagnosis. She’s an actress, activist, and author of five books including I See You Made an Effort. In 2020, she’d written a new book and started as a co-host on a podcast called Tiny Victories. Now she is sharing her lung cancer diagnosis story – as only Annabelle would, with humor.
When Lung Cancer Goes Citrus
When she went to have a cough checked out last year thinking it might be Covid, she came away with the shocking diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer. She is grateful for lung cancer research funding and how she’s now using her voice – and relentless sense of humor – as a lung cancer patient advocate.
“And then, once they said they found something, there’s a tumor, the size of a Clementine. Well, you know, when something goes citrus, you’re in trouble.”
A biopsy and a diagnosis of stage IV cancer. was more shocking to Annabelle because other than her little cough, she exercised every day and felt like she was in really good health.
Non-smokers Get Diagnosed With Lung Cancer?
“What I didn’t realize when I was diagnosed, because it had not been on my radar at all, was this growing epidemic of lung cancer in nonsmoking women.”
A 2017 study of 12,103 lung cancer patients in three representative U.S. hospitals found that never-smokers were 8% of the total from 1990 to 1995 but 14.9% from 2011 to 2013. The authors concluded that “the actual incidence of lung cancer in never smokers is increasing.” Another study that same year, of 2,170 patients in the U.K., found an even larger increase: The proportion of lung cancer patients who were never-smokers rose from 13% in 2008 to 28% in 2014. It is well-documented that approximately 20% of lung cancer cases that occur in women in the U.S. and 9% of cases in men, are diagnosed in never-smokers.
Cigarette smoking is still the single greatest cause of lung cancer. And today’s screening recommendations apply only to current and former smokers. Yet according to a study published in December 2020 in JAMA Oncology,12% of U.S. lung cancer patients are never-smokers.
Targeted Treatment for EGFR Mutation in Lung Cancer
Annabelle recognizes that lung cancer research is a key reason her lung cancer diagnosis came with hope.
“… because I get to have the life I’m having right now because of the drugs that were developed in the last five years. I happen to have the EGFR Mutation, which responds to a medication that allows me to continue a pretty normal life, except for the extra napping.”
Learn more about the EGFR biomarker and information regarding approved treatments for lung cancer patients with the EGFR mutation in LCFA’s Hope With Answers℠ Video Series: Biomarker EGFR. Watch Dr. Natasha Leighl of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto discuss the EGFR mutation in lung cancer with patient advocates Jill Feldman and Ivy Elkins.
Advocating for Lung Cancer Research
“ I have some cells that went rogue, and that’s how I think about it. One of the hardest times in my life was the three months where I didn’t know what I was facing. I have to say there was, at least some relief as weird as that sounds in the diagnosis.”
Annabelle’s story of an accidental lung cancer diagnosis is a very common story among lung cancer patients. In Annabelle’s case, getting an accurate diagnosis set her on a treatment course that is manageable as well as saving her life. Now Annabelle is in a position to “pay it forward” by reaching out to others who may benefit from hearing her story.
“These drugs will stop working in a certain amount of time and whether I survive and how I survive, what kind of quality of living I have is entirely dependent on lung cancer research funding.”
Annabelle is determined as a writer and a storyteller, to share her story, her lung cancer diagnosis, and how she’s living with it and the incredible tight rope she’s now walking. In becoming an advocate for lung cancer research, a story about a lung cancer diagnosis and Annabelle Gurwitch sets the stage for the next chapter in her life.