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Lung Cancer The White Ribbon Project

Lung Cancer Awareness month | The White Ribbon Project

Dave Bjork

Background: Underwent stage 1 lung cancer surgery, in remission for decades, hosts own cancer researcher podcast
Focus: Encouraging lung cancer story sharing, passionate advocate for early screening and biomarker testing

Lung Cancer Awareness Month:
The White Ribbon Project

Dave Bjork
Stage 1 is My Story

Story 8 of The White Ribbon Project Stories

Dave Bjork is the ultimate connector.

I think people know me. My world revolves around gratitude and kindness.

Dave Bjork

That’s not a surprise for those who’ve known him since he was a kid.

“The funny thing is I was actually voted the friendliest guy in my high school and I went to a very large high school.”

His ability to connect with others would later help him in his time of greatest need. Years later, in 1998, Dave started to experience multiple bouts of pneumonia years.

“After the second time I got pneumonia, my doctor ordered a cat scan because it was in the same spot. The infection was in the same spot on the X-ray, soI went in for a cat scan. I wasn’t thinking anything,” Dave recalls.

But then came the phone call.

“My doctor called me and said, ‘Dave, you need to come see me, we found it. You have a tumor. You have cancer.’ My world just stopped,” he says.

“I was catastrophizing, thinking the worst and thinking I’m going to die. And do I have enough insurance? And my kids are under the age of five and what’s my wife going to do? And all of those things that we go through when we hear a cancer diagnosis.”

Thankfully, the lung cancer hadn’t spread. Localized cancer meant surgery would be the only treatment. But it was a significant surgery.

“They removed my lower left lobe. It was a painful, terrible, awful experience because it’s not like these little surgical things. It’s like a very invasive surgery. So there was a lot of recovery time.”

After the trauma of diagnosis, Dave wanted to step up and help others in lung cancer awareness. But for many years, he felt like he didn’t belong at the same table as other lung cancer advocates.

As a stage 1 lung cancer survivor, he didn’t feel he had the same story to tell.

“I felt like I didn’t really have a voice because I had this sort of survivor’s guilt like…how can I stand in the same room with these people who are fighting for their lives?And I totally get that. I totally get someone who’s fighting for life and I’m like, I’m not fighting for my life, but I do care about this.” 

Dave would speak out here and there, but it took 20 years for him to really step into his voice. Good friend and fellow advocate, Chris Draft, encouraged him to share his story. And loudly.

Chris Draft & Dave Bjork with The White Ribbon Project

That’s also when Dave learned about The White Ribbon Project, a grassroots movement to encourage people to tell their lung cancer stories.

They represent those stories through a wooden white ribbon that helps them show how proud they are to be in the same community.

The White Ribbon Project really gave me the I say it gave me the safety and the and the freedom and the power to say, Dave, you’re a stage one lung cancer patient, your voice matters, too. It matters just as much as someone with stage four cancer.

Dave Bjork

The power comes in the messaging:

  • Tell your story
  • Get screened early
  • Biomarker testing is critical

“I had stage one cancer. I survived. I live a life of gratitude, by the way, have you heard about biomarker testing? Have you heard about lung cancer screening? So it really that was that just ignited my voice to a different planet.”

I want it to be where people who have stage one. And they benefit from getting treated earlier, so they survive because we know that earlier you get treated, the better chances you have, right? So to not just move on and go on with your life…

Dave has become a familiar face in lung cancer circles. For him, it’s become almost full circle. The guy voted friendliest in high school continues to make even more friends, but this time, he’s hoping these new connections will ultimately lead to giving hope – and saving lives.

Maybe I can meet more of these patients that are going to be involved with The White Ribbon Project and tell them that they’re not alone. If you want to be part of this, you have a place. We would love to have more people like that.

Dave Bjork

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