Beyond the Walls of Lung Cancer


An oncology nurse and cancer survivor inspired another person with lung cancer to “continue the fight to live.”

By : LaTrice G. Vaughn

I would like to nominate Alesha Arnold for the 2022 Lung Cancer Hero® award for touching the life of my 77-year-old aunt without ever meeting or knowing her.

Arnold has been a registered nurse for years and now specializes as a clinical research nurse for the Clinical Trials Office (CTO) at Indiana University Comprehensive Cancer Center since 2008.

Her years of nursing started in 1997 when she graduated for Indiana University. Arnold remains dedicated to nursing despite her personal cancer story.

READ MORE: Lung Cancer Survivor Urges Others to Participate in Research, Says it ‘Will Make a Difference in the Future’ of Others

In the 14 years of knowing Arnold, we’ve had many professional and personal conversations on cancer care. Arnold has a family history of cancer — I recall her story of when she was going through college and having to travel from college to her hometown to take care of her mother who, at the age of 51, died of breast cancer. She remembers also that her grandfather died of lung cancer.

But Arnold has never shied away from taking care of those fighting against

Alesha Arnold at CURE®’s third annual Lung Cancer Heroes® awards program.

Alesha Arnold at CURE®’s third annual Lung Cancer Heroes® awards program.

cancer. Oddly enough, she is a breast cancer research nurse, informing patients about clinical trials as an option for treatment. This is just one of Arnold’s strong suits. Patients have written her praises as a research nurse advocate in books, articles and general feedback about the love she demonstrates.

At the age of 44, Arnold was on the receiving end of that love when she herself was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. I remember in 2019 when she called and asked if she could meet with me in my office because she needed to talk. We were in shock of the diagnosis as she admitted to never have smoked a day in her life, but here she was dealing with the disease.

Arnold has a quiet strength and an amazing fortitude that attracts so many of us to her.She is an advocate for always doing what’s right and moving the educational bar of awareness forward in her community. She has brought awareness of lung cancer to her family, sorority, colleagues, church family, friends and even to those she doesn’t know — my aunt being one of them.

Arnold and I are from the same hometown of Gary, Indiana.My, aunt back home was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer less than a year ago. I mentioned her diagnosis to Arnold, who informed me about a project that she was just getting started in called the White Ribbon Project.

Arnold, her husband and two daughters organized a white ribbon wood-cutting party in the backyard of their home to spread the word on disease.

Later, I read an article through our cancer center’s news highlights about the program. It read, “Arnold is fighting the stigma and growing lung cancer awareness as an advocate with End Lung Cancer Now and a grassroots movement called the White Ribbon Project, which involves making and distributing large, wooden ribbons. These white ribbons are used to build a sense of community, promote awareness, tackle misconceptions about lung cancer, and promote messages of support, hope and empowerment.”

She has also partnered with End Lund Cancer Now. Its mission is to educate and empower patient advocates to eliminate tobacco use in Indiana, screen all eligible patients with chest CT scans, and dramatically increase participation in lung cancer research.

Arnold and her wood-carving party members made over 25 ribbons, and she brought one to me for my aunt. I took it home when I was going to one of my aunt’s chemotherapy and doctor’s appointment.

I had to remember that my aunt lived through an era when smoking was permitted in public places, seen on the movie screens and a part of everyday life. She had a sense of her diagnosis being a cause of her own destructive habit. What she did not know was that lung cancer can affect a non-smoker. What she did not know is that lung cancer affected a 44-year-old, African-American woman, from her home town, a nurse, a clinical research nurse, a colleague and someone who is admired throughout her community for her continued efforts to educate others in spite of her own diagnosis.

My aunt was astonished that his amazing person would take time out to make a white wooden ribbon especially for her. It was signed by Arnold, her husband, their two daughters and others.My aunt was in awe of Arnold’s story and said that it inspired her to continue the fight to live.

That is why I nominate Alesha Arnold for the 2022 Lung Cancer Hero® award.

Lung Cancer Hero® Alesha Arnold passed away on Feb. 5, 2023, leaving behind a legacy of advocacy, education and awareness in the cancer community.

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