A Closer Look: Reina Honts & The Importance of Early Testing
We sat down with Reina Honts again, our #VBGIVESBACK woman of the quarter, to take a deeper dive into her personal story as a lung cancer survivor. It all comes down to one key takeaway: Early detection saves lives. Here, in her own words, Honts tells us about the rather serendipitous spark behind it all, which eventually saved her own life.
The Honts family
Most people are excited to plan their 50th birthday. But here I was, about to turn 50, and I was getting more and more stressed. It was throwing me for a loop and, when I started to really listen to myself, I realized it was because I lost my mom to lung cancer in her fifties—she died at 53. She was the first person I knew who had cancer, and passed away shortly after she was diagnosed, within 10 months. That's where my head was at during this period: a dark place, thinking this could be my last decade.
At the same time, I kept seeing these public service announcements everywhere in New York recommending a new lung cancer screening test. I distinctly remember one—I was in a cab on Park Avenue and 23rd Street, looked across the street and saw the PSA on a bus stop. In that moment, I thought to myself, I need to talk to my doctor. And that's what I did.
My doctor told me the screening wasn't new—it was a low-grade CT scan they were just promoting as new. I told her I wanted it. She hemmed and hawed and noted that, even though my mom had lung cancer, it wasn't proven as genetic. I wasn't a smoker, too. I kept pushing. Finally, she okayed my getting a chest X-ray so we had a baseline. I told her, whatever the results, I still wanted the CT scan. She was fine with that.
And do you know what? An hour later she called me. Something was showing in my scan. Honestly, I think it was my mom sending me a sign.
Reina Honts and her daughter in a 2019 LCRF campaign
Things came full circle, last fall, when I was featured in an ad for LCRF to increase awareness about the disease. It was part of a series highlighting young families, to put a face to lung cancer. Everyone pictures crotchety old men and women sitting in their chair, with their pack of Marlboros, but that’s just not the case.
That's why I'm very passionate about early detection—it saved my life. People have no idea how easy a CT scan is; it's less scary than a chest X-ray or an MRI. It takes seconds. You don't even have to take your clothes off, and you can keep your shoes on. Don't wait for insurance, which says you have to be between the ages or 55 and 74, to approve you. I wasn't even 50 yet.
I encourage everyone to talk to their doctors about this. You don't have to be a smoker to get lung cancer. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. The five-year survival rate is the lowest among all cancers, but not if you catch it early. My doctor said I had a 90-95% of my lung cancer not coming back and it's all because I did the scan when I did. If you can, get the screening. It's truly life-changing.