a cartoon graphic showing a young man and woman telling an older man to quit smoking

Stigma and lung cancer

This video explains how stigma can make coping with lung cancer more difficult and how reaching out to others can help. Learn more.

Stigma and lung cancer
Voice-over: Stigma and lung cancer  

I had no idea that one of the biggest challenges of lung cancer is dealing with negative attitudes -- both from others, and myself. I've learned that these negative attitudes are called stigma.  

I started smoking when I was 17. Over time it became like a good friend, always there when I needed it.  

My addiction helped me ignore the health risks of tobacco. And besides, cancer would never happen to me.  

I was annoyed whenever my kids pressured me to stop smoking. I know they were trying to help, but I was a big, solid guy -- I felt invincible.  

Years went by. I even tried to quit a few times, but the addiction to nicotine was so powerful. I started to have a deep cough that didn't go away. I lost weight and was always tired.  

My kids said I should go to the doctor. I knew they were right, but now I was scared. If it was cancer, was it my fault? Would everyone think I deserved it? Did I deserve it?  

When I finally found the courage to have some tests, it was lung cancer.  

I felt so many things then, but mostly shame and guilt. I didn't want to tell anyone, but I called my cousin who had had lung cancer.  

She said she felt the stigma too, even though she never smoked! People are quick to connect lung cancer with smoking, even though other things can increase your risk of lung cancer.  

My cousin shared some stuff to read from her lung cancer support group.  

I learned that stigma makes a hard disease even harder. Stigma can make people with cancer feel depressed and anxious, hiding away from loved ones while everyone suffers. I didn't want that for myself or my family.  

I shared my diagnosis with my family and friends, and their support was a big help as I started treatment and experienced some of the side effects.  

Nobody deserves cancer. Everyone deserves care and support. Reach out to friends, family or other people with lung cancer for help and understanding.  

The Canadian Cancer Society is also here to help. Visit cancer.ca or call us at 1-888-939-3333.