Open Letter to Dr. Oz

The Dr. Oz Show is a daytime talk show hosted by surgeon Mehmet Oz where a variety of different health-related topics are discussed.  On November 29th an episode aired regarding four symptoms that people frequently worry about.  One of the top symptoms was a persistent cough, and Dr Oz assured his young female guest that because she had never smoked he did not think she should worry about having lung cancer.  Does this story ring any bells?  Raise any red flags??  A persistent, dry cough was Emily’s ONLY external symptom of lung cancer.

Emily has written Dr Oz in hopes that he will correct this misinformation that was shared with millions of viewers.  She is just one voice though.  Can you spare one minute to contact Dr Oz and the show’s producers?  We want to request that they dedicate a show to the very real and developing epidemic of lung cancer among young, non-smoking adults.  Do you know someone who works at the Dr Oz show, or perhaps the friend of a friend?  Please make sure that this letter from Emily gets to their inbox!

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Emily & Miles Taylor

Dear Dr. Oz –

My name is Emily Bennett Taylor and at age 28 I was diagnosed with Stage IV non-smokers lung cancer.  Bonnie J. Addario of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation mentioned me in a letter to you in December, regarding your segment on Friday, November 29th titled “The Alarmist Guide To The Symptoms You Worry About Most.”

The only symptom I had was a nagging, persistent, dry cough.

If I had watched your show a year and a half ago, before my diagnosis, I would probably be dead.

VballIn June 2012 I was 28 years old and about to celebrate my 2nd wedding anniversary with my husband. We met in college where we were both athletes, and continued to lead a healthy, active lifestyle together after graduation.  I have never smoked a cigarette in my life.  So you can imagine my surprise when I got a chest x-ray for a persistent cough that I thought must be allergies, and my pulmonologist immediately ordered a CT scan after seeing the results.  And then a biopsy.  And then told me I had advanced lung cancer.

I went through eight rounds of chemotherapy, and was lucky enough (and I do mean lucky) to have surgery become an option.  But it wasn’t easy – on February 8th, 2013, my entire right lung was removed in an Extrapleural Pneumonectomy procedure.  A month later, I began 28 rounds of high-dose radiation to my entire right lung cavity.  I battled radiation nausea and fatigue for months, could barely walk, and now go to physical therapy to try to regain the strength that withered away during those months. Today, eleven months after surgery, I am extremely grateful – and again, lucky – to be considered NED (No Evidence of Disease), but not one single day has been easy.5k12w-3301

So you see, Dr. Oz, my life and my struggle are evidence that the face of lung cancer is not what society thinks it is.  We need to raise public awareness.  Sadly, lung cancer is essentially a death sentence at a mere 15% survival rate; a large reason for this is the lack of early detection due to misconceptions about who is at risk.  Misconceptions that were, unfortunately, propagated by your show.

The fact is that lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer in America.  It kills more than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.  Yet, due to the stigma, it is the ignored cancer and is drastically under-funded and consequently under-researched.  More and more non-smokers like me are being diagnosed, and we need to know why and how to treat these people.

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For most new diagnoses, as I’ve learned the hard way, it has nothing to do with cigarette smoking. That is why the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation is working to find a genetic marker in lung cancer, much like the BRAC gene for breast cancer.  Personally, my new dedication in life is to raise lung cancer awareness and funds so that we can find a genetic component and attack the root cause of lung cancer.

As a doctor, I know your main objective is to help people and save lives. That is why I would love the opportunity to help you correct the dangerous misinformation that was provided in your November 29th show.  Together we can save a life like mine.  I’ve included my website so that you can read up on my story; it was just voted into the “Top 9 Lung Cancer Blogs of 2013” on Healthline.com.  I have been able to connect with and help so many fellow patients, but I would love to continue that work through your show.

Much love.  Live in the moment.

Emily “EmBen” Taylor
embenkickscancer.wordpress.com