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Gayle, You Have Lung Cancer

by Gayle Zinda

For over two decades, celebrities have entrusted Coping® to tell the world about their personal experience with cancer. We are proud to present this exclusive interview from our archives and hope that it will inspire and encourage all who read it. This article was originally published in Coping with Cancer magazine, November/December 2007.

Author of Article photo

Gayle Zinda and her son, Adam

You have cancer. What frightening words those are. As a nurse, hearing a doctor notify a person and his or her family of this disease taking place in their lives broke my heart. I could see the looks of confusion and sense the questions zooming in their heads, questions they just couldn’t quite ask. They wanted more information, yet at the same time, they didn’t. I could feel the pain as if the doctor was speaking to me.

Yet at the end of the day, I could leave and the pain was gone. But for the person with cancer, it was just beginning. They needed people to enter their lives and gently pick them up and lead them back to familiar, softer ground. Those people came in the form of healthcare providers, drivers to and from appointments, cooks, and the mail carriers who would bring letters and cards when they least expected it. Then, there were those who like myself, a nurse and business owner, provided wigs, breast prostheses, and yes, at times a little lipstick. We were there to help put the physical pieces together again.

At the age of 50, I needed new priorities in my life.

I provided this service for 10 years and served over 10,000 people. Five years later, I heard those words myself: “Gayle, you have lung cancer.” I had just had a hysterectomy and a right hip replacement. Two weeks later, I had a left lower lobectomy.

After about seven months to recoup from the surgeries (and some lipstick), I became painfully aware of the facts about lung cancer. My son, Adam, and I took off to travel the country in a 31 foot RV to create awareness and push for early detection. To date, we’ve traveled over 30,000 miles.

I thank God for this disease because it has shown me that at the age of 50 I needed new priorities in my life. You’d think after all those surgeries I’d learn something. I did. Take better care of myself, the whole self: body, mind, and spirit. I decided that if I didn’t know the facts about lung cancer, chances were many others didn’t either. Now, I spread the knowledge.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Gayle Zinda is an author and speaker living in Wisconsin. To order her book, Pink Lemonade, or to learn about her travels in the pink RV, visit

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2007.