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Debra V

When you are told you have lung cancer.

Many thoughts cloud your mind when your doctor tells you “You have lung cancer.”  Almost immediately your mind starts racing with questions such as, “What treatment is best for me?  How will treatment affect my overall health and wellbeing?  How do I navigate insurance, support, doctor’s appointments and work issues?  How do I tell my family, friends and coworkers about my diagnosis?  Will people blame me?”  I know this because I was diagnosed with stage III-A non-small cell lung cancer in 1998.  I was only 44 years old.  I was told I had a 10% chance of living two years.

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer there was little information available and the very few resources that existed offered little hope.  With the lack of information and survivors, I struggled through the disease alone.  Because I am strong welled I was determined to beat the statistics.  I searched the internet to find as much inforamtion on lung cancer as I could.  This helped me take an active role in my care.  It is so important to educate yourself about the disease so that you can interact with your health care team to insure the right treatment options can be obtained.

Many things have changed since my diagnosis.  Today treatment options include more direct and targeted therapies.  Tumors can be tested for a gene mutation and many lung cancer advocacy groups across the country have been organized. 

Since my diagnosis in 1998 I have made it my personal priority to help improve the lives of lung cancer patients in Maine and across the nation.


Everyone is at risk for lung cancer. If you have lungs you can get lung cancer. More and more young men and women are being diagnosed with lung cancer at an alarming rate.

Justin Perry is one who knows firsthand about lung cancer. The following story is not uncommon:

Early 2013 I went to the hospital for a simple chest X-ray to see why I was always getting sick and could never seem to catch my breathe. Little did I know that the X-ray was going to change my life forever. I would have never imagined I had stage 4 lung cancer and was knocking on heaven’s door. After two surgeries 100s upon 100s of test, the greatest doctors in the U.S. combined with the best friends and family anyone could ask for, and my faith, encouraged me to take part in a clinical trail to save my life. Now I’m healthier than I’ve been in years, stronger than I’ve ever been and ready for anything headed my way. I am here to place a voice on lung cancer. I was 23 years old when I was diagnosed.

— Justin Perry, Director of Social Medial, Free Me from Lung Cancer

Deb Violette knows about the stigma of lung cancer and the need to raise funds for patient support and research:

Lung cancer is a disease that often leaves the patient feeling guilty, isolated afraid and unable to speak about their disease because of the smoking stigma. But that has not stopped me. I have been speaking out about this disease since the day I was diagnosed almost 16 years ago. I know the feeling of guilt and shame. I worked through it so I could help those dealing with the disease. No one should every experience guilt and shame if they are diagnosed with lung cancer. Please don’t ask us if we smoked. It is no longer a smoker’s disease. I have made it my personal priority to see that lung cancer patients have the support that they need. That is why I founded Free ME from Lung Cancer. We deserve a cure, we deserve more funding for research and we deserve to be supported and loved. No one should have to go through this alone. Together we can change the lives of lung cancer patient’s one step at a time. I was 44 years old when I was diagnosed.

–Deb Violette, President and CEO, Free ME from Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer yet receives the least funding of all other cancers. One in fourteen people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their life time. What we at Free ME from Lung Cancer do is support those who are fighting this disease. No one deserves lung cancer, no one. Our mission is to reduce the suffering caused by a diagnosis of lung cancer by raising much needed money for lung cancer research, education and community support.

Progress in lung cancer research requires a continued commitment in order to secure better treatment options that will benefit cancer patients in the future. Lung cancer has and still is woefully underfunded.

The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) is a comprehensive and coordinated effort to accelerate our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of genome analysis technologies, including large-scale genome sequencing. TCGA is a joint effort of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), two of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Reference NCI and NHI)

Genomics has recently been used to customize cancer treatment for patients. This has led to more targeted therapy options for the patient. This course of treatment identifies the most effective course of treatment, while sparing patients from the debilitating side effects of treatment. It saves time wasted on ineffective treatments. (Reference NCI and NHI)These advancements in cancer genomics are only a small sample of the great strides being made. We cannot afford to lose this ground on these very important breakthroughs. You generous support will help researchers continue their important work in finding better treatment for lung cancer patients.