Patient Helps Raise Awareness at fourth annual “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” Vigil

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Pat Merwin, lung cancer survivor and co-chair of the “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” Vigil, places her glowstick in a giant ribbon formation in honor of friends and family members she has lost and those still fighting lung cancer.

At 52, Pat Merwin was diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma, non-small cell lung cancer, after she collapsed one day at the gym. Turns out the tumors in her brain, had spread from an undiagnosed lung cancer, which caused her to have a seizure. She had never smoked a day in her life and had no history of exposure to second hand smoke. Merwin kept an active lifestyle and considered herself to be in good health. “I had no reason in the world to think that at 52-years-old I had lung cancer,” says Merwin.

At Long Beach Memorial, Merwin was referred to Robert A. Nagourney, M.D., oncologist, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Memorial. Dr. Nagourney conducts an innovative process called functional-profiling used to match available treatments to each individual according to their unique profile of sensitivity and resistance.

After a serious of laboratory tests, Pat was matched to her ideal treatment. It’s been four years since Pat’s diagnosis and she has yet to develop a resistance to her treatment. Since her diagnosis, Pat has been dedicated to raising awareness of the serious impact lung cancer has on our community in hopes of reducing the lung cancer mortality rate.

As part of her efforts, Pat co-chaired Long Beach’s fourth annual “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” Vigil at The Pike at Rainbow Harbor sponsored by the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) to raise awareness, encourage early detection and screening and lobby for equity in research and funding for lung cancer.

“The goal of the vigil was to provide a voice for Long Beach community members impacted by lung cancer, as well as bring this disease out of the shadows and work to ignite a national dialogue,” says Cathy Kopy, executive director, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Memorial.

At the start of the evening, guests were welcomed to sign a wall of remembrance in honor of loved ones lost or in support of those still fighting lung cancer.

Throughout the event, attendees read stories of courage from lung cancer survivors and heard first hand from Pat about her past and present struggle with lung cancer. Others touched by lung cancer shared their stories including one family member who shared her experience with lung cancer as a caretaker.

Following stories from patients and families, guests heard from featured speaker, Dr. Nagourney, who spoke about the need for early detection and continued research. In addition, Dr. Nagourney shared his insight on the newest advancements in lung cancer treatment, including a recent study he conducted on his personalized cancer therapy program that is improving the survival rates for lung cancer patients.

The vigil came to a close with a ribbon lighting ceremony – community members, lung cancer survivors and patients and their families joined together and used glow sticks to light a giant ribbon formation in honor of National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

“The vigil was a beautiful and inspiring reminder that there is hope in the battle against lung cancer,” says Pat. “If we stand united as a community we can eliminate the stigma of lung cancer and fight for more research funding and attention that will have a huge impact on patient survival. I look forward to next year’s vigil as we continue shining a bright light on this most deadly, yet overlooked, cancer.”


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