Concert Spotlights Young Faces of Lung Cancer
Emily, Sandy, and Corey have much in common. They are vibrant, athletic, well-educated women. They also share something else in common; they were diagnosed with advanced lung cancer when they were in their twenties. These young people and many more are part of a population of adolescents and young adults all never-smokers, diagnosed with a disease that is traditionally associated with people much older. They are the changing face of lung cancer, which takes more lives annually worldwide than breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined.
“The reality is that anyone can get lung cancer. It is an equal opportunity disease that doesn’t discriminate based on age, ethnicity, socio-economic level, or lifestyle,” says Hildy Grossman, a lung cancer survivor who founded Upstage Lung Cancer (ULC) in 2008. The Brookline nonprofit uses the performing arts to increase awareness, destigmatize the disease, and raise funds for cutting-edge early detection research. Three thousand miles away in San Francisco, survivor Bonnie J. Addario works to achieve the same end through the Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) founded in 2006 and Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI) established two years later.
On May 20 at the Dana-Farber Boston Red Sox Jimmy Fund Auditorium these bi-coastal allies unite, using the restorative and healing power of music to present the third annual Sing Out! To Upstage Lung Cancer. At this year’s concert ULC and ALCF will focus a light on young people like Emily, Sandy, and Corey and the never-expected increase of lung cancer in the adolescent and young adult population.
All proceeds will benefit the ALCMI Young Lung Genome Fund at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the renowned Boston center that is one of the medical institutions participating in the Addario Genomics of Young Lung Cancer Study. This is the first-ever research study, which includes patients worldwide, to focus on patients less than age 40 when diagnosed.
“There has always been a false sense of security that lung cancer can’t come to your house if you don’t smoke or are young,” says Bonnie Addario. “This is definitely a misconception that people need to know about. Partnering with Upstage Lung Cancer and using music to bring people together is a wonderful way to inform and to make an impact on understanding the disease.”
The Young Lung Genome Study hopes to provide insight into genetic risk factors, specific disease biomarkers, and the unique lung cancer biology of young people. Unfortunately, younger people tend to have more advanced lung cancer at the time of diagnosis than older patients.
Emily, Sandy, and Corey were all diagnosed at stage IV. “I had a persistent cough that the doctors thought was bronchitis or asthma or an allergy,” says Emily Bennett Taylor, diagnosed at age 28. Emily underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery to remove her right lung.
For Sandy Jauregui-Baza, now age 33, her doctor initially thought that she had tuberculosis and put her in isolation in the hospital. Sandy says, “This made sense because I had been traveling abroad, but then my test came back negative for TB.” When finally diagnosed with lung cancer she had metastases to her spine. “It never crossed my mind that I could have lung cancer,” says Sandy. “I always had an idea of what a lung cancer patient looked like and I wasn’t that person.”
Corey, age 23, says, “When I was diagnosed I had just run a marathon. I was on top of the world and thought that I was invincible. I never believed that anyone like me could get lung cancer.”
As ALCF’s patient spokesperson/advocate for the Genomics of Young Lung Cancer Study, Emily says, “I am driven to candidly share my story with everyone. I hope that people will pass it on to others because my story could be anyone’s story. I want to survive and thrive.” Just as other patients participated in studies years ago that helped to bring life-saving treatment, Emily and all of the Young Lung Study participants hope that their involvement will benefit future patients, young and old.
By joining forces coast-to-coast, ULC and ALCF want Sing Out! To Upstage Lung Cancer to strike a chord and raise awareness about the changing face of lung cancer. It is disturbing to see that young people are often blamed and stigmatized for their illness. “These young people are in the prime of life and should be looking forward to the future, to careers, marriage, and families.” Although this is true for anyone with cancer, young people Addario adds that the five-year survival rate of lung cancer patients is approximately 17%, a statistic that has changed little in more than 40 years. Both Upstage Lung Cancer and Addario Lung Cancer Foundation say, “Early detection is critical to survival.”
“As a singer I know that it is easier to talk about something as serious as lung cancer if it is embedded in musical entertainment. It’s a little bit like Mary Poppins said — a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” says Hildy Grossman. “People who attend our concerts leave in good spirits, more knowledgeable about lung cancer, and with an interest in trying to help.
Hosted by WBZ’s Jordan Rich, the May 20 event will include doctors-musicians of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra’s Brass Quintet, the Bo and Bill Winiker Jazz Trio, Peking and the Mystics, Northern Lights-Young a Capella singers, Claire McFarland with Linda Marks and Dave Birkin, and Hildy Grossman of the Follen Angels with Greg Woodsbie. Guest speakers include Dr. Deborah Morosini, a leading pathologist and sister of the late Dana Reeve who died of lung cancer at age 44, and K.C. Oakley of Jill’s Legacy, an organization founded in memory of Jill Costello who died of lung cancer at age 22.
SING OUT! to Upstage Lung Cancer Concert
May 20, 2016 7:30 pm
LOCATION: Boston Red Sox Jimmy Fund Auditorium, 35 Binney Street, Boston
PARKING: Complimentary at Yawkey Parking Garage, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute TICKETS: ONLINE at www.upstagelungcancer.org/events ; PHONE: 617- 992.0166
$25 General Admission, $40 Reserved Seating, $100 Premium Seating
Complimentary Tickets for Lung Cancer Survivors
For More information and to learn more about ULC, visit www.UpstageLungCancer.org.
To learn more about ALCF and the Genomics of Young Lung Cancer Study, visit www.lungcancerfoundation.org.