Renee Marrero
LCRP Consumer Reviewer

Renee Marrero Left to right of picture: my older sister Julie Carr, my dad Gerry Blair, me and then my younger sister Lesli Blair. This picture was taken just a few weeks before my sister's diagnosis in 2016 during a family outing to Vadnais-Snail Lakes Regional Park in Shoreview, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Ms. Rene Marrero’s uncle Lonnie Blair; photo provided by Ms. Renee Marrero.)

My journey with lung cancer started in 2016 when, within a span of just over a year, three out of five of my immediate family members, including myself, were diagnosed with lung cancer. My amazing, faith-filled older sister, Julie Carr, was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2016. She was a 47-year-old non-smoker, so this was a devastating shock to our family. Six months later my father, Gerry Blair, a proud Vietnam Veteran, was diagnosed with lung cancer. We were heartbroken when he lost his six-week battle in June 2017. Because of my dad’s and sister’s diagnoses, I was able to push for a computed tomography scan for myself. I am thankful that my doctor submitted the order, despite the fact that I do not meet the current screening guidelines as a non-smoker. The scan revealed a small, but suspicious, nodule. I had lung surgery in December 2017, had two lung cancer tumors removed, and have been grateful to have had clear yearly scans since. Very few people diagnosed with lung cancer get the chance to catch it that early. It is important to me to help raise awareness about lung cancer and support lung cancer research so more people can catch it early – and for it to ultimately be curable at any stage. The critical need for more research to expand treatment options became personal once again in May 2020, when we lost my beautiful sister Julie. She had faced this terrible disease for 4 years, living as a truly positive, inspirational survivor.

Since shortly after my diagnosis, I have been involved in a number of organizations supporting lung cancer, including A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation. I also serve on their research committee and have been a volunteer and speaker to help in their mission to support patients and families, fund critical U.S. lung cancer research, and provide awareness and education for improved health outcomes for lung cancer patients. I have also visited Washington, D.C. (both in person and virtually) to advocate for more government funding for lung cancer research through both the American Lung Association’s® Lung Force program and the Lung Cancer Alliance (now the GO2 Lung Foundation).

My advice to those facing lung cancer is to learn as much as possible and to seek out people and organizations to get support in advocating for the treatment that is best for them. You are not alone!

My involvement with Lung Cancer Research Program (LCRP) started with a nomination from A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation to be a consumer reviewer for the LCRP Peer Review Panel, reviewing research funding applications alongside scientific reviewers. Being a part of the LCRP as a consumer reviewer has been a meaningful way to honor my dad and sister by helping make a difference for all lung cancer patients through the shaping of future research. The scientist reviewers and all those involved with the LCRP program have been an inspiration, and I am grateful to them for all they are doing to further lung cancer research.

Like so many who have faced lung cancer, I didn’t know much about the illness before living through my family’s experience. I didn’t know that it is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among both men and women, or that there is a dire need for more lung cancer research funding to improve the survival outcomes of lung cancer patients. But now I know, and now that I know, I want to do my part to make a difference.

The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this paper are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision.

Last updated Wednesday, November 9, 2022