CAPITAL DISTRICT For more than 35 years, Phyllis Goldstein would take walks with her friend around Guilderland. But in 2002, both women’s lives swerved in an unexpected direction.
After breaking her arm, an X-ray revealed that Goldstein’s friend had Stage 4 lung cancer. Six months later, a cold brought Goldstein to the doctor, where she found out she had Stage 3A lung cancer.
Neither of the women were smokers.
Goldstein, now 72, is a nine-year lung cancer survivor. Although her close friend’s cancer was too severe for operation, Goldstein underwent a surgery that removed the upper right lobe of her lung. Through their battles, the two friends continued their walking rituals until Goldstein’s friend passed away.
“I’m alive today because of her,” Goldstein said. “She gave me hope and inspiration.”
With the passing of her friend and two others in the Guilderland area who were also nonsmokers, Goldstein felt it was imperative to raise awareness on the misleading myth that only cigarette smokers are diagnosed with lung cancer.
While at a follow-up visit at her surgeon’s office, Goldstein found a brochure about the national Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA). She started volunteering and now, after 10 years, is the director of the LCA-NY local chapter.
“I’m trying to get people to work with me to help bring public awareness. Not many people are aware of the facts about lung cancer,” Goldstein said. “No one deserves to die from lung cancer.”
Betsy McPhail of Ballston Lake lost her 25-year-old sister within one year of her being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010.
“She wasn’t a smoker. My parents weren’t smokers. No risk factors,” McPhail said. “Kind of came out of the blue.”
Lung cancer, Goldstein said, kills more women each year than breast and gynecological cancers combined. Nearly 80 percent of patients diagnosed today are former or never smokers.