My mum died.... from lung cancer

Almost 12 years ago my mum died from lung cancer and no she did not smoke. Despite being 12 years since my mum passes the topic still emerges…. Questions like what does your mum do? Or I bet you love going out with your mum? Are still prevalent due to my young age but when people asks those questions and I respond with my mum actually passed away the next logical response is “I’m so sorry to hear that, if you don’t mind me asking how did she die?” Do I mind you asking? No, not any more but do I struggle to tell you how she died? Yes, very much so because quite simply my mum died from lung cancer and no she was not a smoker.

Non- Small Cell lung cancer is the type she had, a type of lung cancer that is not directly linked with smoking like others. She battled for 18 months through chemo, medical trials and so much more, something I should almost be proud of because through her battle with cancer my mum showed me the true meaning of life, of family and bravery, she showed me how much a person can love someone and she showed me how to be a good person. Yet it is the opposite, society almost makes me feel ashamed of my mum simply because she was unfortunate and got lung cancer, through no fault of her own.

Its almost as if society says, smoking causes lung cancer and if you get lung cancer then it is your fault, even if you have never smoked, it is very much a case of tunnel vision when it comes to lung cancer. It is almost silently accepted within society to assume that those with lung cancer have done it to themselves, that they knew the dangers and yet the continued to put themselves at risk.

Every time the topic comes up I feel obligated to inform people that while my mum did die from lung cancer she was not a smoker and her cancer was not caused by smoking. To this day I feel there is a stigma associated with lung cancer, the emphasis of lung cancer being caused by smoking all be it justified is far to great. 

Every time the topic emerges I find myself wanting to tell people what she died of when they ask but an internal dialogue breaks out and I often find myself struggling to be open and honest or risk casting shame upon my mother. The words lung and cancer are closely linked with smoking and for very good reasons but with that has come a perception that you have caused this illness yourself, leaving those left behind by someone who lost the fight against lung cancer to become consumed by the feeling of challenging the stigma or almost shame our loved ones.

So, no I don’t mind you asking how my mum died but when I say lung cancer don’t glance at me with a look of shame, don’t make me feel like my mums battle was for nothing and don’t just assume she smoked! Every time I answer the question and people look at me like my mum was not good enough, you break a piece of me too.

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