Spurred by the death of her father, Stacy Berglan, a 2006 College of Liberal Studies banner carrier, paved the way for National Lung Cancer Awareness Month in Oklahoma. Berglan earned a bachelor’s degree in May 2006 and her father, James Hassinger, was diagnosed just days later – July 3 – with lung cancer. He died July 30.
“I had a lot of questions, like how did it happen so quickly, 27 days from diagnosis to death,” she said. “I wanted more information to learn more about it so I could grasp it. I contacted the Lung Cancer Alliance in Washington, D.C.”
The Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to patient support and advocacy for people living with lung cancer and those at risk for the disease.
Berglan found that LCA has a nationwide initiative to encourage all states to make November National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. She contacted Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry about the initiative and within three weeks he signed a proclamation to designate November as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month in the state.
She currently is making requests to Oklahoma’s policymakers to set aside a percentage of the Oklahoma Tobacco National Settlement Endowment Trust for early detection of the disease.
“It is important to make Oklahomans aware of the greater effectiveness of CT screening for lung cancer,” Berglan said. “CT screenings for lung cancer detection offer a computer image of the lungs that has been found to be much more effective for early detection of lung cancer than other measures.”
According to LCA, although we hear very little about the disease, many people don’t realize that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths nationally. One reason, perhaps, is that lung cancer is often associated with smoking. This has led to a stigma, as people view it as a preventable disease.
However, Berglan said, it is a disease that claims the lives of many people who have never smoked. Some have lived with a smoker. Some develop the disease because of hazardous work environments. Others, for reasons unexplained, develop the disease without having any known risk factors, creating a real need for early detection.
“Earning my CLS bachelor’s degree taught me how to better organize and account for my time, my work and really helped me prioritize other areas of my life,” she said. “I do not believe that I could do what I am doing currently as a wife, mother of three small children, a full-time employee, an active church member and working with LCA to bring awareness to lung cancer if I had not learned these extremely valuable tools from my experience with CLS.”