Katie McEvoy, 35, never smoked, but she died a week after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Her family wants to make sure no one else goes through the pain they’re experiencing right now.
“It was just the hardest thing to sit by and watch it all happen,” her husband, Richard McEvoy, said.
His wife started feeling minor pain on her lower side before Thanksgiving. That quickly progressed to a metastatic lung cancer diagnosis in early December. Just a week after she received that news, she passed away, leaving her family devastated.
“That’s one of the hardest things is that it happened so fast to somebody 35 years old with no health problems, she wasn’t a smoker, she didn’t abuse her body, she took care of herself,” said Woodrow Lance, Katie’s uncle.
The American Cancer Society says lung cancer is the top cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with 228,000 adults being diagnosed with the disease each year.
“The problem with cancer particularly lung cancer is that by the time patients get symptoms it’s often in a pretty advanced stage,” said Dr. Sai Yendamuri of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Symptoms vary from person to person but some include having a persistent cough that worsens over time, back pain, and painful swallowing. Smoking tobacco is the biggest risk factor. Air pollution and exposure to radon and workplace chemicals like asbestos and arsenic can increase a person’s chances of a diagnosis.
There are some preventive measures that can help reduce the risk of lung cancer, including avoiding smoking, testing homes for radon gas, eating more fruits and vegetables and limiting exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
Yendamuri said it’d be wise to get screened for the disease.
“The best way, the best time to diagnose any cancer is when you don’t have symptoms and that is why screening programs are incredibly important,” he said.
Katie’s family is now using their grief to warn others. They want people to educate themselves, talk with their doctors and listen to their bodies.
“Make yourself aware of what cancer is, do the research, do the homework and figure out for yourself what you can do to better improve your life so that you don’t ever have to suffer or witness anybody else going through the same thing,” Richard McEvoy said.
“Go see your doctor, you never know,” Lance said. “Her pain was minor to start and within three weeks to a month, she’s not with us anymore.”
Lance set up a Gofundme to help the McEvoy family through this difficult time.