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Shedding light on lung cancer

Vigil aims to raise awareness of devastating disease

A local lung cancer survivor will be a speaker at one of the largest internationally coordinated events raising awareness about the disease.

The fifth annual Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil will be held at the Albany Medical Center Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday, Nov. 14, at 5:30 p.m.

Mary Lou Smith, a 67-year-old woman who has lived in Menands for the past 50 years, is a lung cancer survivor and will be speaking at the vigil hosted by the Lung Cancer Alliance and Albany Medical Center.

In 2005, Smith went to her doctor after she developed a chest cold, and her doctor who diagnosed her with bronchitis suggested she get an X-ray to make sure it wasn’t pneumonia. When the X-ray uncovered a “shadow,” Smith was sent in for a CT Scan. The results confirmed that the shadow was a 4-centimeter, non-small-cell malignant tumor.

“I immediately quit smoking,” said Smith, who had been a smoker since she was in her teens and had a family history of cancer. Having tried unsuccessfully numerous times, “a diagnosis of lung cancer made it a no-brainer, and I have been a non-smoker ever since.”

Smith’s mother died from breast cancer at 47, and her brother died at 54 from colorectal cancer. Smith had smoked one to two packs of cigarettes a day before she quit.

“Because of my smoking, I felt my cancer was my fault. Consequently, it took me a while to get over my shame and embarrassment. Other cancers do not carry such a stigma,” said Smith.

Smith had surgery on Nov. 7, 2005, and two lobes of her right lung were removed. Then, she endured five sessions of chemotherapy when her doctors told her she was cancer free.

Surviving cancer is not an easy thing to do, but Smith said help and support from friends and family made it less painful so she wanted to give back. Five years ago, she started volunteering with the American Cancer Society’s Hope Club. The club offers support to people who are dealing with cancer. She also volunteers at Albany Memorial Hospital.

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