“Kaylee is an amazing spokesperson,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President and CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance.
Kaylee knows firsthand the impact of lung cancer on a family. Two years ago today, her father Robb Morris, an All-American swimmer who never smoked, was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. His story was profiled in Lifestyle on Oct. 21, 2011.
“I don’t think a lot of people are well-educated about lung cancer. A lot of non-smokers get this disease,” Kaylee said.
The 12-year-old quickly rattles off compelling statistics with accuracy. “Lung cancer makes up 1/3 of all cancer deaths. It’s the No. 2 killer after heart disease,” she said.
“More women will die from lung cancer than breast cancer,” she added, pointing out that lung cancer is the leading cause of death in every ethnic group.
LCA substantiates Kaylee’s statistics in its 2012 Facts About Lung Cancer (www.lungcanceralliance.org). “This disease has led all cancer deaths for decades,” Fenton Ambrose confirmed.
With such persuasive facts, lung cancer has a low survival rate. Few cases are diagnosed at an early stage when cancer is most curable. Ambrose said the reason is that so little federal funding is committed to lung cancer research.
She said lung cancer has been stigmatized, partially due to public health strategy to deter people from cigarette smoking.
“The unintended consequences are those victimized by their practices. Of the 80 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer, 60 percent quit smoking decades ago and 20 percent have never smoked at all,” she said. “In Georgia as it is in every state (lung cancer) is the leading cause of death. We don’t have a plan to address it in its totality.”
After taking the lead in an effort to raise awareness and funds for research through the annual No More Excuses No More Lung Cancer 5K Run and 1 mile Walk benefiting Lung Cancer Alliance-Georgia, LCA invited Kaylee’s family to the nation’s capitol where she met with lawmakers and told her story on behalf of her family and others.
“It makes me feel good that I am helping other families with lung cancer. Something needs to be done. It makes me feel good to help,” Kaylee said.
She recently met with Sen. Johnny Isakson in Atlanta who is a lead author, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts of the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act (H.R. 1394 and S. 752). Other Georgians supporting the bill include Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Congressmen Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson and David Scott.
“The Lung Cancer Mortality Act is the first ever call to action for a coordinated and comprehensive plan that would support all aspects of the disease. It is amazing to have a disease of this magnitude that has never had a bill introduced before this time,” Ambrose said.
“Lung cancer is a disease and we have to address it. That’s what Kaylee’s doing,” she said.
“I want people to be educated. I want people to know we are trying to do something about lung cancer. I want people to know that no one deserves to die even if you’re old and you did smoke. Everyone deserves a chance,” Kaylee said.
Because Robb’s disease has progressed, he no longer qualifies for the chemical trial he had been on and now takes chemotherapy.
Kaylee realizes it is critical to share her story about this misunderstood and overlooked disease. “My dad deserves to live. He’s just as normal as any other person. He deserves to live life to the fullest like anyone else. I think he will get through this. He’s a really great dad,” Kaylee said.
“Kaylee is one voice, a very strong voice. We need more,” Ambrose said.
If you want to send your message, go to www.lungcanceralliance.org and click “Get Involved,” “Help Cancer Research” and “Contact Congress.”