Lung cancer patients like Kim deserve the chance to become cancer survivors.
Access to new treatments must be faster to give patients a fighting chance.
Despite being the number one cancer killer in Canada, outcomes in lung cancer lag behind other cancers.
- Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada. It kills more than 21,000 Canadians every year — more people than colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
- Lung cancer is in fact many diseases, requiring different treatment approaches and therapeutic options.
- Scientific advancements are transforming the treatment of lung cancer. The development of immuno-oncology and targeted treatments offer new weapons in the battle against lung cancer.
- It can take 18-24 months for a life changing treatment option to be publicly reimbursed.
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My name is Kim and I am a mother to two loving girls, a former psychiatric nurse and now, a lung cancer fighter. In February 2017 I was diagnosed with Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer at just 49-years-old. Prior to my diagnosis I had been living with a persistent cough for about a year and a half. Eventually I began to worry that I was developing pneumonia, so I reached out to my family doctor for a chest x-ray. This is where my lung cancer was discovered.
I am so thankful for the fantastic doctors I have been given here in Ottawa. After discovering my lung cancer, I was given a biopsy which revealed an EGFR biomarker mutation which meant my lung cancer journey would be a bit different than others. Because of some fantastic patient and caregiver groups across North America, I have gained incredible knowledge about my own lung cancer diagnosis which has allowed me to be my own advocate.
To put it bluntly, I would not be standing here today without innovative therapies or lung cancer research. Since my diagnosis, there have been great advances made in lung cancer research and survivorship. Lung cancer patients are living longer and are getting stronger because of innovative therapies. It is my hope that my story can help inspire others to advocate for innovative therapies – because this pivotal research saves lives. I know, because it has saved mine. Together, we can change statistics.
Stories from survivors like you.
My cancer was caught and diagnosed at a very early stage, almost accidentally. At the time, I felt healthy. I was active, kept incredibly busy as the mother of three girls, and was presenting no symptoms whatsoever. Undergoing annual testing for tuberculosis is a requirement for my job. A routine x-ray revealed a shadow on my chest; out of an abundance of caution, my doctor ordered more tests. They saved my life.
Thanks to both an early diagnosis, a supportive workplace, and the rapid action taken by my medical team, a single surgery was all I needed. I had a hugely successful VATS lobectomy that prevented the cancer from spreading. I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation; I didn’t have to bear the pain and fear that too often go hand in hand with that course of treatment.
I feel incredibly blessed to have realized a result like this—but I know that for every case like mine, there are several that end on a much sadder note. They say there is a five-year survival rate for lung cancer. But that statistic isn’t what I’m focusing on. I’m cancer-free. I’m surrounded by the love and laughter of friends and family. But above all, I’m much more than a statistic. I have a name. My name is Jasna. I am a lung cancer survivor.
I’m not a smoker, a fact that made my diagnosis that much more surprising to me and my family—yet there I was with a lung cancer that had metasticized to my bones and lymph nodes. We were at a complete and utter loss, wondering how this could have happened to a reasonably active, healthy woman who doesn’t smoke. My diagnosis changed everything. What did it mean for me?
It meant that I had to abandon a career I adored. It meant that a beautiful future with the family I love—including my twin boys—is in doubt. Would I live to see my kids graduate from high school? Would my ageing mother, for whom I am the primary caregiver, outlive me?
But above all, it meant the activation of my incredible network of support, who leapt to my side and have surrounded me with love and hope throughout this journey. I am eternally grateful for their support, and for the medical professionals whose research and targeted therapy were there for me when I needed it most. I have no idea how long this experience will last—but I do know that I refuse to give up without a fight.
40 years prior to my diagnosis I had quit smoking cold turkey. I was completely shocked at the diagnosis as I had only visited the clinic due to a small cough. Then, I began coughing up blood. I rushed to the ER where the doctor told me I had a large mass in my right lung: cancer.
From May 2018 to September 2018 I was in and out of hospital due to the side effects from chemotherapy. I had both a blood and a platelet transfusion. Radiation burned my esophagus and I had a feeding tube for six weeks. I was exhausted, and I knew I needed a change. On September 5, 2018 I began immunotherapy. This gave me the hope and strength I needed to keep pushing forward. As I continue this journey, I am ever more grateful for my sister, and my family and friends who have given me great moral support. I will continue to stay positive and to live life cherishing each day.
One thing that stays with me is the knowledge that I had been living with lung cancer for a long time before it was discovered. If annual check ups included chest X-rays my cancer would have been caught early and my story might be a lot different.
I began radiation on January 8th and had two chemotherapy treatments within six weeks. It was my intention to remain positive, to look at my life as a series of ups and downs. My wife, a lymphoma survivor, is familiar with the process and greatly helped keep me optimistic.
It was not until March 7 that the cancer diagnosis really hit us. I had finished my first series of treatments and went for a CT scan. Although the original mass had shrunk, I had additional spots on both lungs. I have now progressed to Stage IV. I am determined to remain optimistic. My wife, my loving family, and I are thinking short-term and are enjoying the moment. I have always lived to the fullest- I have been an active member of my community, I have always enjoyed golfing, hiking, and spending time with my extended family.
As I continue onto the next stage, immunotherapy, we are maintaining our positive outlook on life. There is much more for me yet, and I am not giving up.
In January of 2019 I coughed up blood. I drove to the emergency department where I got a regular x-ray and was referred to a CT scan within the next few days. Through the CT scan the doctors found a mass in my lungs.
In February, I was diagnosed with Stage III lung cancer.
I am a proactive individual- my mother had colon and breast cancer- I have been having scans since I turned 40. I am always on top of my tests. If there had been a more readily available and accessible option for lung cancer screening, I would have taken it.
My family was absolutely devastated when I told them the news. I just recently retired and bought a beautiful home. My first grandchild will be born in May. Life was going according to plan and then I was hit with this road block. With lung cancer, as with any cancer, you go through the initial stages of shock and grief. But I have accepted this obstacle and I am optimistic and prepared to fight my way back to health.
My immunotherapy treatment occurs every two weeks for a one year period and lasts about one hour. I have almost no side effects. Currently, a pharmaceutical company exempts me.
In my opinion, immunotherapy is expected to become a first-line treatment as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the case of lung cancer.
I think it is imperative that our governments invest in this kind of treatment for its citizens and encourage research. I am convinced that immunotherapy in combination with other treatments is the future for treating, slowing, and even curing different types of cancer.
I also want to say that a doctor told me that having cancer in one's life is becoming more and more common, so it's important to take action. I will add that my relatives tell me that I look better since I started my treatments. Obviously, I do not know what the future holds for me, but I know that I have a better chance of getting out of it or at least controlling my cancer with a quality of life with the addition of immunotherapy. So I'm much more confident than I could have been 10 years ago.
I then started chemotherapy treatments, I made 4 in total of a duration of 5 hours and 30 minutes for each treatment. Then I did not less than 30 sessions of radiotherapy.
Following a meeting with my medical specialist, I was offered to do immunotherapy, treatment that I started in August 2018. Honestly, I find that with this treatment, I'm still good. I obviously have side effects (chills, fatigue, sensitive skin, etc.), but this is nothing like those caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I have about a dozen treatments to do and I think it helps a lot to prevent the progression of my cancer.
After several specialists’ appointments and tests, the doctors confirmed he had small-non cell cancer which was also in his lymph nodes. He was very close to stage 4.
We were immediately referred to an oncologist and a radiation oncologist. They decided to do radical chemo and radiation. My husband was one of the lucky ones to not have a lot of side effects from his treatment. Towards the end of his radiation he suffered a set back of severe pain in his throat. He was unable to swallow, eat or drink. We called the REACT clinic and they immediately arranged for a nurse to come out for 6 days to provide IV hydration. He also lost his hair but to us that was minor.
He is now on an immunotherapy trial drug. His latest CT scan showed no signs of cancer in his lymph node (yay!) as well his tumour in the lung has shrunk considerably and is now dormant! He still has the trial drug every 2 weeks until January of 2020. We are both very optimistic this will lead to an even greater out come.
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My name is Kim MacIntosh and I am a mother to two loving girls, a former psychiatric nurse and now, a lung cancer fighter.
I am so thankful for the fantastic doctors I have been given here in Ottawa and for the support I have received from patient and caregiver groups across North America. Because of these groups, I have gained incredible knowledge about my own lung cancer diagnosis which has allowed me to be my own advocate.
To put it bluntly, I would not be standing here today without innovative therapies or lung cancer research. It is my hope that my story can help inspire others to advocate for innovative therapies – because this pivotal research saves lives. Click the video to hear my story.
Click the video to hear my story. For more patient stores here.
My name is Diane Chalifoux and I am a lung cancer fighter.
Getting back to myself and my life has been so important to me and it would not have been possible without my incredible doctors and nurses, the support from my friends and family, and the amazing treatment options that are slowly becoming available for lung cancer patients like me.
Click the video to hear my story. For more patient stories, click here.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network was created by a group of Canadians concerned about cancer and cancer survivorship issues.