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Carolyn Riordan diagnosed with lung cancer despite being a non-smoker

A mother has warned that lung cancer can strike anyone after she was told she had the deadly illness despite having never smoked.


Carolyn Riordan, a 57-year-old teacher from Caringbah, Sydney, had her life changed forever on Mother’s Day last year when a series of tests confirmed she had the illness.

Ms Riordan found out the cancer had spread to her bones and brain, and her lung eventually collapsed.

She is now on a mission to raise awareness and funds for the illness and to remind people that not every person who is diagnosed with lung cancer is a smoker.

‘There’s stigma associated with it being deserved,’ Ms Riordan told 9 News. 

She said that the first thing associated with the cancer is being a smoker, and doctors don’t expect to diagnose anyone who doesn’t have a smoking history.

After undergoing chemotherapy Ms Riordan’s tumours began to shrink, but her treatments have now stopped working.

She will now take on an enormous walk to raise money and awareness about lung cancer.

The illness is often overlooked because it is seen to be related to a person’s lifestyle with funding being targeted towards other cancers.

The 57-year-old will be walking the 1000km Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia, dividing the trip into three sections.

‘There’s a lot of hope, there’s a lot happening – even though there’s so little money goes into it because of the stigma,’ she said.

Ms Riordan was determined to complete the walk, despite having only one functioning lung, saying it will be challenging.

‘I do have a partially-collapsed lung where the main tumour is. Hills present a big challenge for me,’ she said.

Four of her daughters – Courtney, 26, Brittany, 24, Gabrielle, 22, and Elyse, 16 – will be by her side during the trek.

Lung cancer has the lowest five year survival rate of any cancer.

Government funding is often given to other cancers such as breast and colon due to the stigma that surrounds lung cancer.

Not everyone who is affected is a smoker, with 20 per cent of those suffering from the illness having never smoked.

The illness can arise from other factors such as diet and family history.

Lung cancer out of any other form of cancer, kills the most Australians every year with an estimated total of more than 9000 deaths in 2018.


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