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Summerlin resident helps shine light on lung cancer detection, research

Paul Bodner, 66, was playing golf one day in March when he felt a pain in his hip. It was troubling but not severe. Still, he got it checked out.

"I thought maybe I needed a hip replacement," he said.

One month later, the Summerlin resident was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was advanced, stage four, and had traveled to his hip.

He has never smoked.

"I was not only perfectly healthy, I worked in health care," he said. "For my career and 10 of those years, I worked in healthy aging. So I was doing everything by the book. I was the poster guy (of healthy habits)."

Bodner was referred to Dr. James Sanchez, a lung cancer specialist with Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada. After the shock of the news, Bodner tried to figure out how he could have gotten lung cancer – was it from walking through a smoky casino to get to the movie theater, or from eating out before the smoking ban was passed? He’ll never know, he said, so he focused on what he could do for others.

"I chose to (subscribe to) a philosophy that, well, maybe there’s another reason for this," he said. "Maybe there’s a reason that comes because I can write, and I can let people know. I can speak. I do both of those around the community a lot. So maybe there’s a message that there’s a reason for it, in another philosophical way, in a spiritual way, if you will. So that’s how I’ve approached it."

Now Bodner is on a mission to see lung cancer gets its share of government research dollars and to make others aware of early-detection measures such as low-radiation CT scans. On Nov. 28, he coordinated Nevada’s participation in the National Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil, one of more than 100 held across the country. The Las Vegas event was held at The Caring Place, 4425 S. Jones Blvd. Pati Kearns, director of services, said The Caring Place allows cancer patients a place to regroup.

"The stress is off the charts for anyone faced with illness, as we learn more about how stress affects the physiology of the body, (how it) compromises the immune system," she said. "It destroys peace of mind, impacts families; they feel overwhelmed, so what we do is truly complementary. It’s not alternative, it’s not ‘instead of’ … We want people to know you’re not alone in this."

Bodner has joined The Caring Place as a volunteer and teaches journal writing. The facility offers free services to cancer patients such as reiki and healing touch, craniosacral therapy and massage therapy, has a resource center, a lending library and CDs for guided imagery recordings by psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Bellruth Naparstek.

Tim Blueflint, a master flute maker who was featured Dec. 13 on the TV show "How It’s Made," plays for patients at The Caring Place, where his "Comanche Peak" CD is on the recommendation list. He was on hand to play soothing music during the candlelight vigil.

"The Comanche people, it’s what we call eagle medicine," he said. "Eagle medicine is medicine of the spirit. Without that open spirit, without an open mind, then any other healing couldn’t take place."

The evening began indoors, where Bodner told attendees how he’d learned of his lung cancer. Jeff Gordon, president and CEO of the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, called Bodner "one of our greatest ambassadors in the community. Things change when you receive a diagnosis" of cancer.

Other speakers, such as Sanchez, talked about the need for early detection and how grave the problem was, even for nonsmokers.

According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, 400,000 people die annually from their own smoking, with another 38,000 to 68,500 dying due to secondhand smoke.

Lung cancer is responsible for 29 percent of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the Lung Cancer Research Foundation, which is more deaths than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. The overall five-year survival rate for all stages of lung cancer, it reports, is about 15 percent.

After the program, the nearly three dozen attendees went outside for the candlelight vigil as Blueflint played background music. After the candles were lit, Joan Sobel, an actress from the now-closed "Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular," read "The Dash," a poem by Linda Ellis. The vigil ended with attendees naming the person they were honoring.

Besides shining a light on the need for early diagnosis, Bodner is trying to get support for lung cancer research funding, which gained momentum Nov. 29 when the U.S. Senate approved the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act of 2012.

It’s a modified version of the bill called the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act, which passed the House of Representatives Sept. 18 as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill. The Senate must pass the entire bill, and the House of Representatives must concur, before the legislation can go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

For more information, visit lungcanceralliance.org, and click the link "lung cancer advocacy."

Bodner asks residents to call their representatives to urge them to support the measure.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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