Fishing is one of the most popular outdoor pursuits in Canada, amongst both women and men. Personally, I don’t get fishing as much as I would like, but have fond memories of fishing trips with my family – (often on the May long weekend, a time when the weather often seemed more suited for ice-fishing in Northern Ontario, freezing my fingers and butt off… thank god for warm gloves and long johns). Oddly, although fishing wasn’t a constant part of life, some of my most vivid memories of my father and his family are from fishing trips in Northern Ontario.
Currently, I treat patients predominantly with lung cancer. While fishing and lung cancer may seem to be very disparate, I often find myself hearing from patients about fishing.
It comes up in one of two ways – the first is when I ask patients what they enjoy doing, and the second is when I ask them what they are looking forward to. For many patients, they enjoy their cottage or camper, and getting outside to fish. Often, because they may be short of breath, or lack energy, or are afraid of falls, they lack the ability to do this activity. For some patients, going on their annual fishing trip with friends or family is a highlight of their year, and often something they are very disappointed if they can’t go for health reasons. Several times I’ve moved chemotherapy treatments for patients to accommodate safe travel or special life events, and moving or delaying treatments for the annual fishing trip is common.
Sadly, lung cancer is one of the most lethal cancers, and in fact causes more death from cancer than breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate and pancreas cancer combined. For patients who are diagnosed with localized disease, just over half are cured, while for those with disease that has spread, only 1 in 25 will live for five years. For patients diagnosed with lung cancer, over half will die within the year. For the patient going on their yearly fishing trip, there is a high chance that this will be his or her last trip.
One of the reasons that lung cancer continues to be such a lethal disease, is the lack of significant fund-raising, the lack of research money, and the lack of money to support and optimize screening programs. The reason for this lack of $$$ is complex (in some ways) and simple in others. The main reason is that lung cancer patients are often blamed – by themselves, and by others – for their disease. Everybody knows that smoking causes lung cancer, the majority of lung cancer patients smoke or have smoked, so therefore, why spend money on them?
People are, of course, entitled to their own opinion. However, there are a few facts that are relevant. The first, is that no-one ‘deserves’ lung cancer. People who currently smoke cigarettes, don’t do so because they are suicidal, they do so because they are addicted. I’m sure there are some ‘perfect’ people out there, who don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol, are not overweight, drive at the speed limit, eat a perfectly healthy diet, get 8-10 hrs of sleep per night, have never had a sunburn, and are putting themselves at the very lowest risk of cancer possible, but the majority of us are living in glass houses if we feel this way. People who have an addiction to tobacco have one of the hardest addictions in the world to break – that does not mean they are deserving of the consequence of that addiction.
The second fact, is that the majority of lung cancer currently occurs not in current cigarette smokers, but in people who used to smoke and have now quit. Basically, while quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer, there are many more ex-smokers than there are current smokers. So, the majority of lung cancers occur in people who may have quit smoking 5,10, or 15 yrs ago.
The third fact, that is surprising to some, is that lung cancer in never smokers is far more common than most realize. Whether it’s due to second-hand smoke, age, environmental or occupational risks, or other factors that we don’t know yet, lung cancer in never smokers currently accounts for 10-15% of lung cancers in North America. If non-smoking related lung cancer were considered a separate cancer, it would be one of the top 6 to 8 causes of cancer death.
Almost everyone I know knows someone who has been touched by lung cancer – either a family member, coworker, or friend…..or fishing buddy – given that 1 in 12 people will get lung cancer, this is not surprising.
This project – catchlungcancer.com, has three main purposes.
- Create a webpage where people can post their fish pictures facebook.com/fishselfie
- Promote discussion, and allow people to remember those who had/have lung cancer (if you can post a picture of them fishing on the facebook page, then great!)
- Raise money for lung cancer screening and early detection – support and research.
Here is how it works:
- Catch Fish
- Take picture of fish and self and post the #fishselfie on the facebook page facebook.com/fishselfies
- Donate money.
Go to www.lungcancercanada.ca and hit the ‘donate now’ button. Donate what you feel comfortable with. You can do ‘a buck a pound’ (I don’t mind if you embellish a bit…), you can have a fishing contest with your friends, and the one who catches the largest fish everyone puts in a buck a pound, you can put in 5, you can put in $1000 per pound – it’s up to you. You can have people pledge your fish beforehand if you wish.
Hope you enjoy fishing this year, that you make some great memories, and that you take time to reflect on those who’ve fished before and have a smile.