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Charleston Woman Advocates for Lung Disease Research After Losing Both Parents to Respiratory Diseases

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Charleston resident Shannon Skelly lost both of her parents to lung disease – her mother to lung cancer and her father to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This Wednesday, March 17, she will meet with members of Congress to raise awareness about lung disease and demand action.

Through the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative, Shannon will join others personally affected by lung cancer to advocate for $46.1 billion in funding at the National Institutes of Health, $10 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, adequate and accessible healthcare.

Shannon’s mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer at the age of 54. After nine months of treatment, which included radiation, chemotherapy and experimental protocols, her tumor, which started out the size of a lemon, had been reduced to the size of a shirt button. After a one-month respite from treatment, her mom’s next PET scan showed that the tumor had metastasized and spread to her brain, bones and most major organs. She died two weeks later at the age of 55, almost a year to the day of her original diagnosis.

Six years after Shannon’s mother passed, her father received a terminal diagnosis. He was given two to four months to live after years of refusing a lung transplant and battling both COPD and congestive heart failure. He lived 28 months under modified hospice care. He died at the age of 67.

“At the age of 37 I was now an orphan having watched both of my parents die at the hands of lung disease from their years of addiction to nicotine,” said Shannon. “For the last several years I have worked with my local office of the American Lung Association to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer, general lung health and air quality. In striving to share awareness, it is my greatest hope that I also honor both my mom and my dad.”

Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Advocacy Day event will be conducted virtually to allow this important message to be heard while also protecting their health and safety of patients and caregivers. On March 17, during the virtual Advocacy Day, Shannon will speak with the offices of Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Tim Scott, and Congresswoman Nancy Mace to share her personal experience with lung cancer and explain why investments in public health, research funding and quality and affordable healthcare are important to her.

It is estimated that in 2021 alone, there will be over 4,510 people in South Carolina diagnosed with lung cancer and 2,550 will succumb to the disease. But more people than ever are living with lung cancer in part because survivors are sharing their stories and policymakers are taking action in response. That’s why Shannon is sharing her story with lawmakers and others — so that more can be done to help lung cancer patients and their caregivers throughout the United States and in South Carolina.

Shannon encourages others in South Carolina to advocate for lung cancer research and healthcare protections by contacting their members of Congress. Learn more about her story and the LUNG FORCE initiative at LUNGFORCE.org.

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