Being diagnosed with lung cancer can be a scary, confusing and lonely experience. Especially if you’ve never known anyone your own age or with a similar background who has been diagnosed.
That’s why VA partner GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer has an entire page dedicated to “Veteran Spotlights.” These stories come from Veterans of various ages, service backgrounds, cancer type and health circumstances.
VA partnered with GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer in June 2020. The partnership leverages VA’s and GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer’s resources to increase awareness about lung cancer screening options to improve outcomes for Veterans.
This partnership, which was facilitated by VHA’s National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP, formerly OCE and CCI), adds to the services VA and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) already offer.
Lung cancer no longer a death sentence
Emily Eyres, chief program officer for GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, explained that the partnership aims to help Veterans learn about their risk factors for the disease since they are at a higher risk for developing lung cancer.
“Lung cancer is no longer a death sentence,” Eyres said. “There’s an opportunity to live with the disease or even, if caught early, you can be cured. We want Veterans to know that they have options.”
It was important to develop the Veteran Spotlight page because “lung cancer has an image problem.” Many people believe that those diagnosed with the disease are always much older people or those who smoked cigarettes. That’s not always the case. Lung cancer is occurring in younger people, people with no risk factors or people with no smoking history.
“That’s why we feature not only Veterans but all kinds of different people impacted by the disease,” Eyres said. “But Veterans are a priority.”
Veterans feel less alone reading stories
When Veterans – or anyone – reads these stories, they can feel less alone in their experience and can also realize that people from all backgrounds and experiences can be diagnosed.
On the spotlight page, Veterans discuss their lives before and after diagnosis. Veteran John hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail after multiple cancer diagnoses.
Another, Larry, was never a smoker: “I am one of many who prove that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.”
Georgeanna Bady, health systems specialist for HAP, said she believes these personal stories can help Veterans feel as though a lung cancer diagnosis is less alienating. Many people who have had loved ones with cancer can especially relate to these stories.
“I promised my son”
Bady’s husband and son, both Veterans, were both diagnosed with cancer. Her husband is a cancer survivor. Her son did not survive his illness. When the opportunity arose to partner GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, Bady immediately volunteered to facilitate the relationship.
“Knowing the importance of screening for cancer is not academic to me, it’s personal,” he said. “I promised my son I would do all I could to make life better for the next Veteran.”
For more information on Go2, please visit: go2foundation.org.
For more information on HAP, please visit: va.gov/healthpartnerships.
Dr. Tracy L. Weistreich is a nurse executive for VHA’s National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships.