So, Did You Smoke?

Last Modified: November 16, 2010

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I was diagnosed earlier this year with lung cancer. I never smoked, but that is always the first thing people ask me. It makes me want to punch them- how do people handle that question- whether you smoked or not!?

Answer

Donna Lee Lista, Lung Cancer Survivor, Advocate and OncoLink Blogger, responds:

Hi, I am also a lung cancer survivor and a blogger for OncoLink, and I did address this issue in my very first column. First, let me say congratulations for being here! Second, as a survivor, I too can't stand that question. It is ALWAYS the first question I am asked. In the beginning I used to say immediately, I got lung cancer and never smoked. Then after a while I realized that I was not going to say that anymore. Why?, because it shouldn't matter a hill of beans if you smoked. I always say, you don't ask colon cancer patients, if they ate a fatty diet and didn't get enough fiber, do you?

But why do they ask? I honestly think it is because people are very very afraid of lung cancer. They want to know that the lung cancer victim did something that separates them from you. They can then think, well, that’s not me, I don't have to worry.
So my advice to you is to understand their fear and, maybe, if you feel comfortable enough, ask back, "why does it matter if I did?" Make sure you have a big smile on your face. Or, you can say yes or no, and then quickly say, but now it doesn't matter, lung cancer is becoming more and more prevalent in the non smoking population at alarming rates.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Lung Cancer Q&A Webchat. View the entire transcript of the Lung Cancer Q&A Webchat.

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