Judith Levi (who goes by “Jude”) has a joyful laugh that tickles your heart. You’d never know by chatting with her that she’s battled lung cancer. Twice.
Levi, who’d been exposed to tuberculosis at a younger age, underwent a precautionary chest x-ray in December 2003, only to receive the diagnosis of stage 3A lung cancer—an advanced form of the disease. Levi was shocked and scared, especially since she’d never experienced a single symptom.
After browsing the Internet, Levi learned that her chances of beating this type of cancer were slim. “There’s a 15 percent chance of a five-year survival rate for lung cancer patients,” she explained.
Levi, who had initially begun to panic after learning these statistics, said, “It’s so easy to freak out [when you get diagnosed]. It’s like fighting an army. Your mind can just go crazy with you.”
But Levi refused to let cancer pin her down. One reason? It was her son’s senior year in high school. “I got this mindset that death, to me, was not an option,” she said.
Despite a second battle with the disease in 2007, she vowed not to surrender. She returned to the hospital for more chemo, surgery and radiation. Levi was in luck: all therapies were successful.
In tandem with her conventional treatments, Levi practiced reiki, guided imagery and positive thinking to help expedite her recovery. “I truly believe that our mind is the most powerful part of our body,” she said. “I found the strength I didn’t know I had.”
Levi added that the constant emotional support from her best girlfriends, husband, son and other family members truly helped her survive.
“I couldn’t do it alone. I think it takes an army,” she said.
And because so many others supported her, Levi wants to give back by supporting others in their battles against lung cancer. For the past five years, she has worked to help organize the Free to Breathe® annual 5k walk for lung cancer in Glastonbury, Connecticut.
Free to Breathe® is a non-profit event program sponsored by the National Lung Cancer Partnership that hosts athletic and community events such as runs, walks, marathons and golf tournaments to “build a foundation for raising the public’s awareness of lung cancer and increasing research funding to fight lung cancer” (Source: Free to Breathe).
Levi, a former smoker who quit years before she found out she had cancer, is very adamant about the fact that only 21 percent of lung cancer patients are smokers. Many, like Levi, experience no symptoms. Many of those diagnosed are young women.
“My wish in life is that women would hear us…these are our mothers, aunts, sisters and daughters…I’m not saying put breast cancer aside, but just give a little more focus to lung cancer,” said Levi.
She added, “I fight because I can. You know, there’s so many amazing people and strong people that I have met in this small community that lung cancer really is. It’s a small community because there are not a lot of survivors. I keep going because I can. Every time I think I need a break, someone else I know passes away. In their memory, I try to spread the word.”
The Free to Breathe® 5K event organized by Jude Levi will take place Sunday, September 18, 2011 at Glastonbury High School in Glastonbury, CT.
Event registration opens at 8am. DJ, Face Painters, Tattoos, Clown making balloon animals and hats, food and silent auction.
Those who wish to participate may register online until September 14 at www.freetobreathe.org for a $25 fee. Mail-in registration, at $28, is due September 12. Registration the day of the event is $30.
If you don’t live in Connecticut and would like to find a 5K for lung cancer in your area, visit http://www.freetobreathe.org
In one word, Judith Levi describes how she feels after everything that has passed: “The word that pops into my head is ‘wonderful.’”
As far as ever worrying whether cancer will strike again, Levi said, “I don’t think I can function thinking every day I’m going to die. I thought ‘if this is the way it’s supposed to happen, I’m going to do the best I can. And here I am seven years later.”