By GERARDO ZAVALA | firstname.lastname@example.org |
Shyreece Pompey was a school teacher and devout member of her church in Michigan prior to finding out she had lung cancer.
“I’ve been fighting seven-and-a-half years,” she emphasized. “I could have died a long time ago.”
Pompey said that the only reason she’s been able to live so long is because of breakthrough medical technology — next-generation chemotherapy — that has kept her cancer, which has now spread to her brain, under control.
Pompey, a member of the White Ribbon Project, set up a lung cancer awareness event Saturday at Woodland Bible Church to not only spread awareness of the disease but also to show support to the many people who have been impacted by lung cancer.
“Lung cancer doesn’t target race, beliefs, none of that,” Pompey stressed. “You have to talk to your doctor, get tested and then find the right treatment for you.”
Dozens of community members participated in the event by helping cut wooden ribbons and painting them white to help spread awareness and show support to community members.
Chris Draft, a former NFL linebacker who played for several teams including the 49ers, flew in to attend the event and help make 60 white ribbons. D“It’s amazing how you can be in great shape and then all of a sudden have stage four lung cancer where it’s all over your body,” Draft said.
He flew to Woodland to be a part of this event because he believes everyone affected by lung cancer — patients, caregivers, health staff — should feel supported and not alone.
“Our hope is to not just create an awareness of lung cancer, but an awareness that people need to be supported,” Draft emphasized. “They all matter, and they matter enough to make sure that we use every resource that we have to make sure that they’re taken care of.”
The goal of the event was to support cancer clinics, caregivers and cancer patients and to show support and compassion for people who have been impacted by the disease, according to Pompey.
Ron Fong lost his wife to cancer and attended the event to spread awareness of the fact that lung cancer can happen to anyone.
“If you have lungs, you can have lung cancer,” he stressed. “It doesn’t matter if you smoke or never smoked, if you’re rich or poor, athletic or a couch potato. My wife never smoked and she got lung cancer.”Draft met Pompey through a lung cancer awareness group after his wife, Keasha Rutledge, died of lung cancer.
“My wife did a tremendous job of facing it,” Draft highlighted.
Rutledge went to her doctor after noticing something wrong with her breathing and found out she had stage four lung cancer.
“There’s not much awareness of November being lung cancer awareness month, so we want to help make people more aware that if you have lungs, you can have lung cancer.”
Pompey similarly said it’s hard to be a cancer patient and seeing most of the attention going to breast cancer when lung cancer is also prevalent and much harder to detect.
That’s one part of the reason she started creating events like this and becoming an active voice in the community, particularly among the youth who attend Woodland Bible Church.
“I love these youth here at Woodland Bible Church, they love me and they made me remember what it was like when I used to teach in public schools. They share the type of love with me that just woke up a passion in me that said, ‘I’m gonna live and I’m going to educate while I’m alive.”
Mark Creighton, the church’s pastor, said Pompey and her husband have been very active in the church and in the community since they moved here from Michigan.
“Their love and enthusiasm for Jesus and for the community has infected our church.”
Although this is the first big cancer event the church has held, Crighton said he hopes his church continues to be a helping hand in the Woodland community.
Ryan Hiett, the youth leader at the church who works closely with Pompey, said the event was a great opportunity to give back to the community.
“Lives are being changed at Woodland Bible Church and it’s just really cool to see our church grow and for us to get back out into the community,” he said. “We just look forward for what else god’s going to bring.”