It’s no secret that lung cancer affects a patient’s entire community: family, friends, co-workers and more. Learning to live with lung cancer is its own challenge, especially for men. Hear from three guys who found their own patient voice, and help others find theirs, as they tackle living with lung cancer in unique and powerful ways.
Guests LCFA Speakers Bureau members
AJ Patel, James Hiter, and Frank McKenna
Accepting the Challenges As Men Living with Lung Cancer
AJ Patel, James Hiter, and Frank McKenna have been living with lung cancer for a number of years. Thanks to research and new treatments, they have the experience and commitment to help others facing the same shocking diagnosis. However, they each have unique journeys and different approaches mentally.
AJ Patel went from being the guy who doesn’t like to ask for directions when he’s lost to recognizing his own vulnerability. He has learned to bring the very best version of himself into the moment that he’s living – even when he’s not feeling that great.
For James dealing with a lung cancer diagnosis, he was grateful for the support he got that allowed him to make that shift from , “Why me?” to “Why not me?” His advice from a mental standpoint is “the sooner you can get there, the sooner you can start to feel in control through a time when there’s very little, that you feel so out of control.”
Frank McKenna was never sure what his purpose in life was prior to lung cancer and he knows now. He has an appreciation that “I am still alive, still kicking” and feels he needs to give back, shine a light, and use it as a platform to educate people.
A Deeper Relationship with their Partners
Frank McKenna acknowledges that he and his wife always had a good, strong relationship and it strengthened even more since his lung cancer diagnosis. During the early days of diagnosis and treatment, his wife took charge and said, “We’re going to fight this and you’re not going anywhere.” Frank feels like their relationship now is better than it’s ever been.
James expressed that the greatest gift we can give to our spouse is to try and be the best patient we can be – even though it’s hard for men to ask for help. And despite it being trying at times when his wife turned his stomach with food suggestions after every single chemo session, he appreciated that she was trying to have the right foods in the house to make sure that there was something that he might like to eat.
AJ recognized that living with lung cancer has helped to nurture a much deeper relationship and an appreciation of really what a partner brings when they say, “I do.”
“You realize just how fragile life is, but at the same moment just how beautiful it is, because you can see the love from a person.”
Branching Out into Advocacy
Knowing the fact that lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined, each of these men have become advocates for lung cancer in their own ways. James Hiter is working to change this statistic by advocating for parity when it comes to research funding. James created a non profit, Streak For a Cure, designed to raise awareness to the fact one only needs lungs to get lung cancer, as well as to raise money for research.
AJ chose to get involved with the patient advocacy side. He sees this work as simply paying it forward. “The only reason I am here today is because a phone buddy was matched with me eight years ago.” That buddy provided AJ with a tremendous amount of hope by showing that he was living with lung cancer. James also volunteers as a phone buddy – talking to people who are newly diagnosed.
Frank McKenna is now a Cancer Exercise Specialist who helps people living with lung cancer learn how to continue making exercise a part of their lives. He is so thrilled to be feeling so well and, through speaking engagements, volunteering and sharing his story, his life has new meaning. “We’re willing to help everybody, but there is a community out here of guys who are willing to help other guys and get through this. So don’t be afraid to reach out.” Get Frank’s 4 Keys to Wellness.
AJ, James, and Frank are part of LCFA’s Speakers Bureau. They are using their voice to get the word out there for more lung cancer research. They have shared their story on the LCFA’s website, participated in fundraising events and appeared on some of the podcasts to let people know that there are other guys out here that are willing to help other men living with lung cancer.
Men Making Strides in Lung Cancer Research
LCFA’s Young Investigators includes men living with lung cancer in a different way – making amazing discoveries in lung cancer research. These LCFA-funded scientists dedicate their professional lives to the study of lung cancer. Translational Researcher: Dr. Vincent Lam is giving back to society by finding new therapies for lung cancer patients. Dr. Adrian Sacher’s research looks at the body’s immune response to cancer cells. Dr. Jon Zugazagoitia’s research hopes to discover novel biomarkers and targets for new immune therapies for lung cancer. Dr. Zoltan Lohinai’s research is looking at how gut bacteria can help the immune system fight lung cancer. All these researchers hope to make men living with lung cancer live longer.