Anyone can get lung cancer. All it takes is a pair of lungs.

In August, 2015, Lindi Campbell and her primary care physician both believed that the discomfort she was suffering from was due to acid reflux – a chronic disease that occurs when stomach acid or bile flows into the food pipe and irritates the lining. It seemed the only logical explanation. Lindi was young, in good shape, and had no other symptoms. Her doctor was thorough in her care and ordered a “just in case” x-ray and CT. The results came back indicating a small shadow in her chest. Further testing concluded that there was a very small nodule on her lung.

It’s not only smokers who get lung cancer – anyone can get lung cancer

For the following couple of years, a pulmonologist watched the nodule grow, ignoring the fact that Lindi had grown up in a large family, all of whom (with the exception of Lindi and her sister) had been smokers. Because she did not otherwise present with a profile consistent with lung cancer, no action was recommended. When the nodule had doubled in size, Lindi sought the opinion of a different pulmonologist who immediately responded; “nothing should be growing in anyone’s lung.” The biopsy came back with no sign of cancer.

Initially it was believed that the nodule in her lung might be caused by a fungus, so an infectious disease doctor prescribed anti-fungal medication in the hopes of eradicating the nodule all together. Within two months, however, the spot had grown not only in size, but in density, as well. It was time to remove it.

Diagnosis? Stage 1A

Lindi and her husband own an accounting firm in Kentucky. On the heels of tax season kicking off, Lindi requested that the surgery be put off until late April. Her request was denied – this growth set off alarm bells and the physician suspected something more was going on…and he was right: Lindi had cancer in two lobes of her right lung. The good news: it was Stage 1A, and removal would deem her cancer free. She was considered to be cured.

For the year following, Lindi’s scans were clear. And then, they were not. There were now spots on her left lung. For the next several months, she was monitored and, when it was clear that one was growing, she underwent a lower left lobe wedge resection. She also underwent biomarker testing and was found to be carrying the EGFR Exon deletion mutation which, in actuality, turned out to be a good thing. In the world of lung cancer, research is ever evolving and improving. Fortunately for Lindi, the EGFR mutation is not only the most common, but has the best options for treatment. Lindi currently takes oral medication daily and considers herself fortunate to have “hit the lottery for lung cancer.”

Anyone can get lung cancer

Lindi has not taken her diagnosis lightly:

“Anyone can get lung cancer. My family is a prime example. I grew up in a big family where everyone, except my sister and I, were smokers. I am the youngest and the only one who has gotten it. I feel responsible for making sure everyone is alerted to the fact that they can get lung cancer…and it doesn’t matter how you get it.”

A life-long Kentuckian, Lindi has used the opportunity of her lung cancer diagnosis to not only become a fierce advocate, but to start and run a non-profit, Breath of Hope Kentucky which exists to initiate conversation and raise the level awareness about lung cancer in Kentucky and to help erase the stigma and lower the deadly statistics of this disease; the #1 cancer killer of men and women.

“Lung cancer is a burning wildfire and I am going to use every resource possible to fight that fire. There are so many burning embers and without early detection, the life expectancy is grim. Our future depends on the hands of progress.”

If every adult could be screened for lung cancer at their annual physical, the numbers of those diagnosed, like Lindi, before the cancer has spread would increase. And, more people would have the options for treatment that Lindi had. All it takes to get lung cancer is lungs. Because anyone can get lung cancer.