Facing Your Fears
- Beloved comedian Kathy Griffin—aka “Mayor of Zero F**Ksville as self-described on her Instagram—appears to be showing more vulnerability as a cancer survivor.
- After returning to the stage for the first time since treatment at a charity event in Los Angeles, the Grammy-winning comic opened up about what the experience was like after her lung cancer battle: “Heaven.”
- Lung cancer is much more treatable when diagnosed early, which is why it’s important for past and present smokers to start getting screened at age 35. Non-smokers are not off the hook, as 20% of cases affect people like Griffin, who did not smoke.
“When I first walked out on stage … and I started speaking in my whisper voice some folks in the audience laughed because they didn’t know about my situation,” she shared, noting she was very “self-conscious” about her post. Griffin said she then explained to the audience why she sounded like that, as she had a paralyzed left vocal chord due to cancer surgery.Read More
Griffin admitted that she doesn’t know how strong her voice will be to go out any time soon on a proper tour, but just getting out there again and getting over her fears of not being able to project was a huge first step. “Wish me luck! I’m doing all kinds of pathology lessons and all that other boring stuff so I can go back to projecting,” she added.
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Kathy’s Lung Cancer Battle
Kathy Griffin was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021 and has been very public about her diagnosis and cancer battle. She’s a non-smoker and was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer. A stage 1 lung cancer diagnosis indicates that the cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body.
Symptoms of lung cancer typically include:
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Constant coughing that becomes painful over time
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in voice or difficulty speaking without getting winded
- Pain in the torso, mid- and upper-back, and shoulders
- Discoloration or a sudden change in color of mucus and saliva
Griffin had surgery to treat her disease, which, as she shares, impacted her voice and her vocal chords. Lung cancer surgery impacts the body in various ways. It may cause fatigue, leaving the patient feeling weak and tired. There’s also the risk of infection after surgery. Signs of infection after lung cancer surgery can include: shivering, feeling nauseous, swelling or redness around the surgical wound, and fluctuating temperature. Speak with your doctor if you experience any of these things.
Non-Smokers Can Get Lung Cancer Too
It’s important to know that even people like Kathy Griffin who’ve never smoked before can still get lung cancer. The CDC reports that in the United States, about 10 to 20 percent of lung cancers, or 20,000 to 40,000 lung cancers each year, happen in people who’ve never smoked.
“Some lung cancers are from unknown exposure to air pollution, radon, or asbestos,” Dr. Raja Flores, system chair of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai previously told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “We also see more never-smokers with lung cancer who have a family history of it.”
Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. It’s responsible for anywhere from 3 to 16 percent of cancer cases depending on the levels present in a given area, according to the World Health Organization, but smokers are still 25 times more at risk from radon than non-smokers.
Another possibility for the cause of lung cancer in a non-smoker can be second-hand smoke. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 7,000 adults die of lung cancer annually from breathing secondhand smoke. Air pollution, family history, HIV or AIDs can also all impact the chances of a non-smoker getting lung cancer. No matter what, it’s important to not rule out the disease just because you don’t smoke. And former and current smokers are recommended to screen for the disease.
Contributing by Anne McCarthy.