Brevard County lung cancer survivor says she’s never smoked a day in her life

Elementary school teacher’s pain in her hip was cancer

“If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer, it’s as simple as that,” Debra Smith said.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – “If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer, it’s as simple as that,” Debra Smith said.

Three years after her own diagnosis, Smith said the first sign that she had cancer was not what one would expect.

“I had a pain in the hip — a discomfort in the hip — which I thought was a pulled muscle from Pilates,” Smith said.

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At the age of 55, Smith said she didn’t suspect anything serious at first. Her pain lasted six weeks and was unchanged after physical therapy. Smith asked her doctor for an MRI of her hip.

“The x-ray came back with nothing on it, and the doctor said the only way we could know for sure was an MRI and I said that’s what I want,” Smith said.

Surgery revealed a tumor that doctors traced to her lungs. Smith had stage IV lung cancer.

“I’ve never smoked a day in my life,” Smith said.

Janelle Hom with the American Lung Association in Central Florida said while Smith’s pain may seem like an unusual symptom for a lung cancer patient, she’s not alone.

“It is actually fairly common to have some kind of odd symptom,” Hom said.

Smith is a teacher at Suntree Elementary and continues to walk to raise more than $10,000 for life-saving lung cancer research at the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE Run/Walk at SeaWorld.

“We have an incredible support group and I feel that every day,” Smith said.

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