Allison Shearmur's death is how all lung cancer patients should be remembered

I was really sad to hear that the Hollywood film producer, Allison Shearmur, had passed away from lung cancer at the age of 54. It is another stark reminder that anyone – men and women, young and old, smoker and non-smoker – can get lung cancer.

I did however smile at the way all the coverage (at least all the coverage I read) focused on her, her work and her achievements. It sounds simple and yet, I imagine, those who have had a lung cancer diagnosis will understand what I mean. Because, at no point, did I see a reference to her smoker status and it was incredibly refreshing.

Instead, the Mail Online talked about her impressive career back catalogue, one that includes The Hunger Games, American Pie and Erin Brockovich.

The Independent highlighted her family – husband and film composer Edward Shearmur; daughter Imogen and son Anthony; parents Martin and Rhoda Becker; quadruplet brother and sisters Jodi, John and Lisa and seven nephews and nieces.

Her illness was not the focus. Speculation around the cause of her illness was not the focus. She was the focus – her life and her talent. Just as it should be.

Working in the marketing team at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, I have the privilege of speaking to many of our patients and supporters and sadly hear all too often about negative attitudes they, or their loved ones, have experienced as a result of having lung cancer.

"I did however smile at the way all the coverage (at least all the coverage I read) focused on her, her work and her achievements. It sounds simple and yet, I imagine, those who have had a lung cancer diagnosis will understand what I mean. Because, at no point, did I see a reference to her smoker status and it was incredibly refreshing."
Rachel Avery, Head of Marketing | Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

A recent survey by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC) found that one in four people in the UK have less sympathy to people with lung cancer than those with other forms of cancer.

I can understand why some people feel like this. Many see lung cancer is as a self-inflicted disease. However, the fact is that the stigma surrounding lung cancer and its links to smoking is just a prejudice that obscures the real issues.

In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons why lung cancer survival rates are so low. It makes people are too scared to go to their doctor and face everything that could come with a lung cancer diagnosis, so they put it off and put it off until they end up in A&E with a terminal diagnosis.

Or they don’t even consider the possibility that it could be lung cancer; I can’t get lung cancer because I never smoked.

Or they are not referred on for crucial, potentially, lifesaving or life lengthening tests because they don’t meet to stereotype of a lung cancer patient.

But the fact is anyone with lungs can get lung cancer and this lack of awareness is putting people’s lives in danger.

So we need to shed this stigma and instead focus on the people this devastating disease affects because, at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

In Allison’s case, what matters is there are two children left without a mother and a husband without a wife. What matters is the remaining quadruplets are missing a piece, two parents have had to bury their child and the film industry has lost a huge talent and role model.

This was focus and it is about time.

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