Lung Cancer a Leading Cause of Death
“I was happy to see Dr. Garst there,” recounted Bryant. Garst had been Odies Bryant’s doctor throughout his cancer journey. “I was very thankful and grateful that Odies was able to live for 19 months past his diagnosis. For months (during this time) Odies’ voice changed drastically. Dr. Garst extended his life and gave us his voice back … She always made Odies smile when he went to his oncology appointments.”
While the number of lung cancer deaths is decreasing, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in men and in women (not including skin cancer). Lung cancer will take the lives of roughly 132,000 people in the U.S. this year — including about 5,000 in North Carolina — estimates the American Cancer Society.
Of those diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S. each year, 18% are never-smokers. Former smokers account for 61% of lung cancer diagnoses and current smokers make up 21% of cases. More than 75% of lung cancers are diagnosed in people over the age of 65.
Odies Bryant was 96 when he passed away on April 18, 2021. A Raleigh resident since May 2006, the Georgia-born decorated World War II U.S. Army rifleman and retired United States Steel (Pittsburgh) layman was the proud father of eight children, numerous grandchildren, and a niece.
“Odies was blessed with 19 months (post-diagnosis) to enjoy his family — celebrate the holidays, have picnics in his room, do his physical/ occupational therapy exercises with (grandson) Tyler, cheer for the Steelers and 76ers, and dance, especially to the Temptations,” shared Bryant.
The Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina (LCI), which co-hosted the White Ribbon Build, was a valuable resource during Odies’ cancer journey, said Ingraham, and continued to be a source of support and comfort to those he left behind.
“The biggest thing LCI provided was an external support community of other lung cancer survivors/caregivers, advocates, and experts to let us know — we were not alone. When a loved one in your immediate family that lives in your home is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family goes on the cancer journey,” said Ingraham. “When he passed away, they shared with our family a heart-felt condolences card along with water bottles and journals. Journaling really helped all members of the family process our feelings and emotions.”
For five years previous to her stepfather’s diagnosis, Ingraham, through her community outreach work with the DCI Office of Health Equity, had worked closely with Garst and the LCI team on several initiatives to raise awareness about lung cancer, including lung cancer risk assessments and presentations for Women’s Health Awareness Day and Men’s Health Screening events as well as collaborative community forums, both in-person and online.
She hadn't anticipated that her lung cancer advocacy would turn so personal.
On September 18, LCI will host its 15th annual Triangle LUNGe Forward 2 Mile Walk and Celebration — this year with presenting sponsor Duke Raleigh Hospital — on the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.
“This will be a day to raise awareness and honor everyone who has been impacted by the disease,” said Paige Humble, executive director of LCI.
Ingraham has already registered to participate and plans “a respectable fast-paced-cross country walk” in loving memory of her stepfather.