High Point lung cancer advocate wins award
Di’Ann Smith considers herself more than a mere lung cancer survivor — she’s a lung cancer thriver.
More than five years after being diagnosed with lung cancer — a diagnosis, by the way, that suggested she probably wouldn’t live more than a couple of years — the 65-year-old High Point woman is now cancer-free and is one of the state’s most dedicated lung cancer advocates.
Three weeks ago, she was named a Volunteer of the Year by the North Carolina Lung Cancer Partnership, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting lung cancer research, awareness and advocacy.
“Di’Ann does a lot of outreach and has always been a steady, dependable volunteer for us,” says Khaki Stelten, communications and development manager for the N.C. Lung Cancer Partnership. “She’s always willing to help out.”
Specifically, she’s been an active part of the planning committee for the Triad’s annual Free To Breathe fundraising events in Greensboro. She’s a host at the survivor tent, where she meets other men and women who’ve been through what she’s been through.
Smith was diagnosed with lung cancer on Dec. 18, 2007, after battling what she and her doctors thought was bronchitis for a couple of months.
“I just kept coughing, and it never seemed to get better, even after the doctor put me on antibiotics,” she recalls. “It was awful — I just couldn’t stop coughing.”
Finally, a chest X-ray came back abnormal, and a CT scan showed a 5-centimeter mass in her lungs that proved to be cancerous. The following February, she underwent a right upper lobectomy, then underwent a regimen of chemotherapy and was ultimately determined to be cancer-free.
Smith gives thanks to God for healing her, but she also credits her team of doctors and nurses at Duke University Medical Center for the care they provided.
It was during Smith’s rehabilitation that she was introduced to the N.C. Lung Cancer Partnership.
“During those months when I was getting better, there was no support system for people that I knew of,” she recalls. “They had breast cancer support groups, but no lung cancer support groups.”
So Smith called Duke’s oncology support program, and they hooked her up with another lung cancer survivor who had been through exactly what Smith had been through. That woman introduced her to the organization.
“I got involved in their Free To Breathe event in Greensboro, and I’ve been involved ever since,” she says.
Despite her active participation, Smith couldn’t believe she was selected for the Volunteer of the Year award.
“When they were introducing it and describing the winner, I didn’t know who they were talking about,” she says with a chuckle. “I was just overwhelmed. I think I cried for two days, but they were tears of joy.”
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