Lungs are having a moment.
Yup. One fundamentally underappreciated organ. Not as romantic or picturesque as a heart. Not as hungry as as a stomach. Not as smart as a brain.
Lungs are one of those things we absolutely take for granted. Just breathe, y’all.
Except, it’s not that simple. Knee on the neck, stupid COVID, fucking fires.
Those boggy pieces of flesh are actually absolutely essential to our ongoing existence. You can go without food for 30-40 days. Water, three to four. Brain dead, well, with other life supports, for years. Heartbeat, 20 minutes. Breath? Three to six minutes before you suffer irreversible brain damage.
Our lungs are, unquestionably, one of our most essential organs. Arguably unattractive (I’ve held a resected lung in a lab) but oh so beautiful as far as function.
I would like to posit that 2020 is the year of the lung. Police brutality, a global pandemic, and the West Coast up in smoke.
We should not, cannot, ignore the organ that is in charge of respiration. Those of us with lung cancer understand this. Not just understand, our very existence is often predicated upon drawing a breath.
Of all our organs, it is our lungs that interface with and are most sensitive to our immediate environment. Therefore, logically, we should love our lungs.
And yet, even though lung cancer takes more lives than any other cancer annually, it is also the most underfunded when it comes to medical research.
Why? Is it the outdated stigma that only associates lung cancer with smoking? There is no question that smoking damages lung tissue, an established risk factor for lung cancer. However, it is the inflammation secondary to inhalation of smoke that is key. IE: damage to lung tissue. Viruses that attack the lungs (COVID) and wildfires can cause the same sort of damage.
Our lungs are the canary in the coal mine. And they should never, ever, be taken for granted. Just as our heart can’t stop beating, our lungs can’t stop breathing. And they are not discriminate. Whatever particulate is in our immediate environment will be inhaled.
Essentially, anyone who breathes is at risk for lung cancer. That is each and everyone of us.
2020 should be the year that we all stop taking the next breath as a given.
Love your lungs. Your very life depends upon it.