TMH raises awareness for lung cancer

Guests hang messages on tree to honor loved ones lost to Lung Cancer. Photo by Kira’Fika Jackson.

The Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center team rounded up some of their employees Tuesday evening and a few guests to raise awareness for lung cancer at their radiant event, “Lights in the Garden.”

If you didn’t know, November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and just like breast cancer awareness where survivors and supporters wear pink, November is the month to wear pearls and white to show your support. It’s the only reason to wear white after Labor Day according to TMH nurse Shannon VanWinkle.

“We’re really passionate about removing the stigma of sort of like, “I smoke, so I did it to myself.’ People end up feeling guilty with that stigma,” she said. “There are people who smoked their entire lives and they lived to be 104 and never got lung cancer.”

Dana Miles, who is also a nurse with TMH, hopes the public can better understand lung cancer.  ”“Fifty percent of women with lung cancer have never smoked and 20 percent of men with lung cancer have never smoked. Smoking doesn’t really have anything to do with it,” she said.  “But that doesn’t mean you do it to contribute to heightening your risk.”

The purpose of the event was to shine a light on the latest developments in lung cancer care and how it’s contributing to a brighter outlook for patients. Offering patients new hope such as newly advanced screenings and new treatment options.

The event took place at TMH’s Cancer Center Healing Garden, an outdoors center for patients and guests to enjoy their healing and solitary contemplation.

TMH raises awareness for Lung Cancer. Recognizing new technology and screening options for patients, giving them more hope and a brighter future. Photo by Kira’Fika Jackson.

The garden features outdoor string lights, soothing water, ambling paths and outdoor seating.

“The garden and the event is about lung cancer. It’s all about putting the light on lung cancer,” Miles said. “Our idea is to bring all of this new information and new technology to the light to help fight it.”

According to TMH, the TMH Cancer Center is home to one of the most advanced radio-surgery systems in the world. Also, for the first time, TMH offers an international network of clinical trials for cancer patients in the Big Bend.

“We actually started up an oncology clinic, where the idea is to have different disciplines like radiation oncologists, pathologists, and surgical oncologists to meet every other week to give patients that are referred to us a plan of care. All of these doctors together look at that patient’s record and decide what they want to do. Hopefully, we’ll shorten the time from diagnosis to treatment,” VanWinkle said.

TMH administrator Kathy Brooks admitted she is proud of the support staff and nurses in the cancer center.

“The best part of the event are these ladies. They work tirelessly to support patients and remove barriers and do things for all of our cancer patients,” she said. “They are very passionate about raising awareness, teaching the community about going to their primary care physicians to talk about what screening tools are out there for them. So, they actually inspired the event as well.”

The TMH Cancer Center team left with two big tips: catch it early and get screened. Miles suggested that if you’re in a high-risk group, which are people who’ve smoked for 30 years or more and had any type of chemical or radiation exposure to the chest, its important to talk to your doctor about screening.

“If you catch lung cancer early enough you have a 60 percent chance of survival, but if you wait and it moves somewhere else you have a 6 percent chance. So, don’t be afraid to get checked.”

“Lights in the Garden” will be an annual event held at TMH Cancer Center every November.