Lung Cancer Survivor: I Never Smoked

By: Brittany Gunter
By: Brittany Gunter

Many times when you think lung cancer, many people think of the stereotype of an older person who has smoked all their life, but doctors say that just isn't true.

24-year-old Jessica Watson of Rocky Mount is a mother of a 3 year old and never smoked a day in her life. About a year ago she had a cough she just couldn't get rid of. Her co-worker convinced her to go to the doctor, and that's when a specialist found a tumor in her left lung.

Watson couldn't believe she had lung cancer. She says, "Most of the time when you think of lung cancer, you think of somebody that's been smoking half their life. I never smoked a cigarette in my life. So I was like where did this come from. It surprised me."

Watson had her entire left lung removed and underwent chemotherapy treatments after that. She is thankful that the cancer was detected in the early stages.

She says, "Sometimes you sit back and think why do things happen, but I'm glad because if I didn't go to the doctor there's no telling where I would be right now."

One of Watson's doctors at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center in Greenville, Oncologist Paul Walker, says more and more "never smokers" are getting lung cancer. "It is becoming an epidemic. Anyone can get lung cancer. Unfortunately somebody who has never smoked can get it. Many times no one thinks of lung cancer and therefore there's a delayed diagnosis or they get blamed you must have done something you really did smoke."

Walker also says another problem is that people ignore their symptoms because they don't think lung cancer can happen to them. He hopes that stories like Watson's will open the door for discussion about lung cancer and people will realize it doesn't discriminate.

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  • by gntcpw07 Location: Fountain on Feb 27, 2011 at 03:40 AM
    Has anyone thought about the fact that cancer is bad in any form? If it's in your make-up to have cancer, you will get it. It doesn't matter if you smoke or not. I've lost family and friends to colon cancer. It happens. All you can do is be prepared to handle it when it does.
  • by Obama Snake Oil co Location: Washington on Feb 26, 2011 at 02:15 PM
    Luz C. Hoffman Location: canyon lake, My point was, lung cancer come natuarlly for some people without reason. I don't blame tobacco for what people choose, its their right, I didn't say it was smart. It just seems odd that so many people around here die from lung cancer and none ever smoked period. I am not sure you post is accurate about tobacco companies, its sort of like saying the US government created AIDS....I just don't see the argument in reality.
  • by Phyllis Location: Albany, NY on Feb 26, 2011 at 09:48 AM
    I am a never smoker, my father, his brother and two of my best friends were never smokers; also two of my friends gave up smoking decades ago. All died from lung cancer except me. I am lucky my lung cancer was diagnosed at early stage. Only 15% of us survive five years or more while breast, prostate, and colon cancers have 90%, 99% and 65% survival rates respectively. 80% of newly diagnosed lung cancer cases are in never smokers or former smokers who had given up smoking decades ago. No one deserves to get lung cancer. We shouldn't blame the victim. If blame is to be placed, it should be on tobacco companies who have put addidtives in cigarettes which are carcinogenic and make them more addictive. The Lung Cancer Alliance ( provides advocacy and patient support services for those who have or are at risk of lung cancer.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Feb 26, 2011 at 04:35 AM
    Luz C. Hoffman Location: canyon lake, We are sorry you lost your husband, however, facts remain. My neighbor is taking radiation for lung cancer...never went to Vietnam or worked in a smoke envirionment....never around asbestos....yet facts remain, he has it. I spent a lot of time on the internet learning about this subject and found the studies for second hand smoke were thrown out by a judge since it was "made up" for political reasons. Obviously, it worked for you as you post that you believe. Well, I don't. Having knowledge about particulate matter, you would have to spend 24 hours a day in a heavy smoking bar to get the equivalency of 2 cigarettes. I smoker takes in parts per hundred and second hand smoke is normally parts per million. Don't believe everything you read as Neo hit it right, is it good for you or bad for you is a question that changes daily. I think the treatment we now show airports now, is mean spirited. It is their freedom, whether I like it or not.
  • by Shocked Location: Ytilaer on Feb 25, 2011 at 04:37 AM
    To Neo from Reality: You have really enlightened me. I was not aware that President Obama and Al Gore are the only politicians in U.S. history to ride in an airplane are a limo. I'm not sure who you're referring to as the ugliest first lady in history, but if it's Barbara Bush you're 100% correct.
  • by Luz C. Hoffman Location: canyon lake on Feb 24, 2011 at 05:35 PM
    My husband smoked. My husband was in Vietnam, exposed to agent Orange. He died on Dec. 20, 2010 of lung cancer. Folks, get your heads out of the sand! Whether one has smoked, never smoked, been around "second-hand" smoke, served this nation and been exposed to chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer and birth defects, get over it!! This stigma is causing hundreds of thousands of lives, yearly! Does anyone think that Christopher Reeves or his wife "deserved" to have what happened to them happen? He was riding a horse, he knew that he could fall and injure himself, yet much money is spent on research for paralysis. Everyone felt horrible when Dana had lung cancer. How sad. But somewhere, someone came up with that she had worked in a bar, and that is why she got lung cancer. So, it was her fault, huh? Please, it is ignorance that kills! If you think that this country is not paying attention to the No.1 cancer killer, be an advocate!
  • by Neo Location: Reality on Feb 24, 2011 at 04:47 PM
    To say that this is caused by "2nd hand smoke, people." is an absolutely absurd and simple minded thougt. Researchers told us a few years ago that eating eggs would kill us. A few years later they admitted they overshot the truth and eggs in moderation was ok. They have backed off of the "don't eat salt or it will kill you" garbage as well. If you have high blood pressure, lay off, otherwise.... moderation. Recent studies have also shown that the impact of second hand smoke was overstated as well. That's not to say that second hand smoke isn't bad for you, it is, but like always they overstated the case because of political ideology. Ms "Anonymous" poster needs to pay more attention to the news and current events, this is five year old news at this point.
  • by David Location: Pitt on Feb 24, 2011 at 01:40 PM
    hey anonymous.. cancer is cause by alot of things not just smokers. do us all a favor and plug your nose and hold your breath the next time you are around a smoker. do something productive besides point fingers.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 24, 2011 at 01:05 PM
    Anonymous@3:39PM,what a load of psycho babble.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Feb 24, 2011 at 01:02 PM
    When the EPA ruled on this years ago, everybody that had lung cancer got it from second hand smoke, regardless of whether they ever worked in the environment or not. So when this story was posted I wondered why the people I know to have lung cancer were never around smoke and how much of that EPA ruling was politics. You have seen me post it in past. Then we hear about third hand smoke who a scientist that does Mass Spectrographs thought was the funniest thing he had ever read. My point, lets use science and keep politics out! I don't like being played like a fool anymore than anyone else. I guess when they told me if I was around second hand smoke I knew I was being played a fool, especially, when I ran the story down...politics, not science. Now we wonder why so many get lung cancer? If they would focus investigative research instead of political lobby, we might know why....

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