Lexington woman battling cancer warns others about radon

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - You can not see it, smell it, or taste it. Some say it's among the most dangerous things in our homes.

Radon contributes to over 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the country each year.

Now, Lois Turner Dees who's fighting the disease hopes to warn others about the potential threat.

"Today is the first anniversary of when I was diagnosed with stage four renal carcinoma," says Dee. "When you're first diagnosed with lung cancer, you're in shock."

What's even surprising is that Dees never been or lived with a smoker.

"Once you determine what steps to recovery you're taking, then you start reflecting on how did this happen," said Dees. "As I was talking to my doctor at the Markey Cancer Center, he mentioned radon."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, central Kentucky carries a higher risk of radon.

"The fact of the matter is if you're exposed to it every day of your life. If you lived in your basement, exposed to that level of radiation, the EPA says it increases your risk of lung cancer," said Dr. Ron McGarry, UK radiation medicine.

Dr. McGarry says radon is derived from decaying elements found in the bedrock many homes are built on. As radon decays, it is odorless, tasteless and can't be seen.

"If you just so happen to breathe radon when it decays, it deposits into your lungs permanently and it sits radiating lung tissue," said Dr. McGarry.

"I had my home, my basement tested, when the results came back, the normal range is a four or below. My home was a 32," said Dees who quickly installed a radon abatement system to make the space safe again.

Cancer experts say Dees' case is extremely rare, but so have been many circumstances in her life. After her late husband Larry Turner fought health problems, he was killed in the crash of Comair flight 5191. Widowed with three children, Dees says she fought then and she'll fight now.

"I always Try and be positive and try and give thanks," Dees said. "But I'll have to be honest with you and tell you there were a few days when I can't believe this."

But with the support of her new husband and family, her fight against a disease where there's only about a 10 to 15 percent survival rate gives her new purpose.

"I would encourage people to get their homes checked," she said. "I'm so blessed to be here today and to be feeling as well as I am. (I am) just so thankful for the year I've had since my diagnosis."

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