The roots of the Lung Cancer Foundation For Young Women began almost six years ago, when Nicole was fighting lung cancer herself. She began to brainstorm ideas on forming a not for profit foundation to help other women and their families stricken with lung cancer. She knew how fortunate she was to live close to one of the top US cancer centers, MD Anderson. She only had to travel from Austin to Houston and stay with her parents during her weeks and months of treatments. Nicole had a passion to help others in need. She accomplished this in many aspects of her life, her college degrees, and her career choice. She was always a strong advocate for those who were not as fortunate and in need of help.
It all started with the unplanned chance to meet people from all over the U.S. waiting for appointments at the Med Center. Talking to other patients provided her with the spark, an idea for the foundation, a simple yet tangible concept to inform, educate, and provide useful information in a positive manner. How could she assist these families with their core life needs, the often overlooked costs to get to cancer treatments? A tangible need became very apparent. She wanted to be able to help others with these logistical costs that insurance and government based programs do not cover. Most of us don’t even consider these unless you have experienced it firsthand. Many families fighting lung cancer today have had to sell their businesses, empty their 401ks and savings, sell their homes or make other life changing decisions to give their loved one a fighting chance at life.
Let us take a moment to tell you about the founder and her story fighting lung cancer.
In October 2010, Nicole was diagnosed with Lung Cancer less than a year after she earned her Master’s degree in Social Work/Business Administration from Texas State University. She had previously graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Texas A&M University. Being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer was mind boggling to her and her family. Nicole was an active, healthy, young woman with a lot of personal drive who had never smoked. She only had a persistent cough which she thought was just sinus drainage “Who doesn’t – it’s Houston” or a slight cold that she couldn’t shake and was just tired from long days at work or traveling. She also had discomfort, a pain from time to time in her back shoulder blade that would not go away. Her doctors thought the shoulder discomfort could have been caused by being on her computer all day at work and a not so ergonomic chair. Little did we ever imagine that these three very minor symptoms combined were signs of lung cancer.
Over the previous six month period she had appointments with two different doctors that misdiagnosed her with two separate unrelated issues. A third doctor was able to analyze the combined symptoms, ordered an X-ray, and immediately sent her to see a pulmonary specialist who confirmed through a biopsy that Nicole had lung cancer. Within three days after receiving referral acceptance, we were at MD Anderson with our world turned upside down, extremely Scared, Mad, and Dismayed and in Terrible Shock. After the numerous tests and retests in the first week and now at Stage IV, her primary oncologist estimated that the cancer started approximately 6 months to 1 year before being detected.
“Please pay attention, healthy to stage IV lung cancer in less than 12 months!”
This timeline plays over and over and over across the US, across the world every day!
Within the first six months of treatment at MD Anderson, Nicole started talking about all of the hardships many patients had to deal with. These included difficult treatments she herself and other patients were going through. She wanted to do something, anything that might make their daily lives just a little easier. Sitting and waiting for her next appointment, test or treatment gave all of us an opportunity to talk to a lot of other patients, to hear about their hardships and successes fighting cancer.
Throughout the first year of treatments, she continued to work and live in Austin. Due her severely reduced lung capacity it became increasingly difficult to maintain a 40 hour work week, go grocery shopping, clean her apartment and even take care of her two beloved puppies. The side effect of chemo and radiation treatments made it necessary to move home to Cypress.
We experienced as a family firsthand, the frustrations of finding useful, positive information about anything related to lung cancer; First off, don’t pay attention to the negative statistical information on the Internet. Most of it, if not all, is at least three years or more old.
Lung cancer is technically not staged like other cancers; it is staged as “Localized, Regional or Distant”.
Some of the simple items like how to get a handicapped parking permit or access to a wheel chair takes a lot of time and effort and in many cases, another expense.
Nicole received five series of radiation treatments that lasted fifteen to twenty-one consecutive days each concurrently with chemo which eventually caused her hair to fall out.
One of the most difficult logistical hurdles was locating a wig salon that had anything that would work for a young woman. Then seeing the joys of what a wig could do for her self-esteem, a young woman in her late twenties who had lost her hair due to cancer treatments is unforgettable.
Throughout her lung cancer battle she was able to beat some of the secondary cancers on her brain, liver, spine, and bones.
Lung Cancer has one of the highest rates of mortality. Lung cancer research lags grossly behind all other cancers. In comparison, Lung Cancer doesn’t get public recognition or awareness as one of the most deadly diseases impacting the U.S today. Lung Cancer kills more women than breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers combined.
Consider that Lung cancer research receives only a small percentage of the total annual government research funding, 3% of $6.9 billion (AIDS research receives 44%) and then factor in, over the past 10 years, there has been an alarming increase of Lung Cancer cases, especially in young women for unknown reasons.
A Word of warning; do not ask anyone fighting lung cancer if they smoked. One of the most frustrating misconceptions for Nicole was that the first question some people would ask, “Did you smoke?” She would tell them that she had never smoked in her life. Nicole wanted others to understand, that Lung Cancer affects nonsmokers too. That negative stigma really bothered her; this is not a self-inflicted disease that only affects smokers. Smoking is not the only suspected cause. Assorted Chemicals, Asbestos, Radon Gas… bottom line, the medical community doesn’t really know why.
Nicole was a very active and health conscious person that loved traveling and being outdoors. She started dancing at an early age, was on the high school drill team, fished in the bay and offshore with her dad, water skied, snorkeled, all the things a young active woman would do.
Who / what is the Lung Cancer Foundation for Young Women about?
LCFFYW.ORG is a Federally Approved, Cypress Texas based 501c3 nonprofit foundation, with its mission anchored on 100% volunteer “no one receives a salary” tasked with providing Awareness & Education dedicated specifically to assist women of all ages and their families across the U.S. Through proactive partnerships with MD Anderson (all campuses across the US) and American Cancer Society as a reliable source for women, their families and care givers fighting lung cancer.
We work closely with MD Anderson social workers and receive multiple applications and referrals for assistance from MDA and the American Cancer Society on a weekly basis. The foundation continues to provide assistance for lodging during treatment, transportation assistance to treatment, parking, meals, wigs, medical mobility, and annual scholarship programs. We are also now starting to work with Baylor College of Medicine on a new project for research and awareness.
The foundation participates in Awareness Fundraising events throughout the year to further its mission and support. We have and continue to build teams to participate in the Woodlands Marathon coming up March 3, 2018. We plan on continued participation in the Wicked Wine Run – Houston / Waller in May & Sept., Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo BBQ, Ironman Series, Texas 10 Series, Coles Crossing Turkey Trot -Thanksgiving morning, Spirit Night at Willie’s Grill & Icehouse, and we are always looking for new awareness and fundraising events. Come Join our Team!
The Foundation is also always looking for new sponsors, and partnerships with corporations, US cancer centers and athletic organizations that foster working with women’s groups, high schools and colleges to further our awareness and education goals including the benefits of Early Detection, Why is Lung Cancer not spoken, What your medical staff expects from you, What should you expect from every medical professional, How to be a caregiver and friend to anyone fighting cancer……..
Nicole lost her battle with Lung Cancer, October 26, 2012. The LCFFYW foundation officially opened one year later. Her passion and vision continues to be the cornerstone, the mission of this foundation driving the Board of Directors and the growing list of Volunteers, Donors and Corporate Sponsors.
LCFFYW.org will continue until there is a cure and no one has to fight this terrible disease.
For additional information about the Lung Cancer Foundation For Young Women, and how you too can help one of these families, please go to www.LCFFYW.ORG and follow us on Facebook.
Lung Cancer Foundations For Young Women
P.O. Box 1679, Cypress, Texas, 77410