In July 2018, I celebrated my 70th birthday by running my first half marathon in Missoula, Montana. In the ensuing months, I, who have never smoked a cigarette in my life, developed chest, shoulder and hip pain, as well as shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness. I was alarmed because I have always been an exceptionally physically fit and active lawyer/law professor and outdoorsman.
In December of 2018, after exploratory surgery, I was diagnosed with a stage four lung cancer that had spread throughout my chest, shoulder and hip. Though the lung cancer is incurable, within 90 days of starting chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatment, I reached "complete remission" which the oncologist described as "spectacular and awesome." After four months, we ended the chemo, and have maintained the complete remission for the last eight months.
One of many things I have learned throughout this process is that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, and that outdoor air pollution is a risk factor. Several air pollutants including diesel exhaust and particulate matter have been found to cause lung cancer.
While I will never know for sure what caused my lung cancer, the knowledge that air pollution can harm health provides an opportunity. To improve health, our local officials and members of Congress must support steps to clean up the air we breathe.
First published: January 2, 2020