Real Patients. Real Stories.
Our community of lung cancer fighters and survivors are changing statistics. Read empowering stories below and become part of our community today.
At age fifty-six, I woke up in the middle of the night coughing blood. I immediately went to the emergency room for an X-ray and a CT scan and received a brusque report: “I am so sorry. You have lung cancer.” I was left alone to contemplate what this meant for me.
I had no previous symptoms of cancers of the lung. I was in shock.
A pulmonologist came in to offer a second opinion and offered to run a biopsy to verify the first doctor’s findings. The biopsy was conducted a week later, and because of where my tumor was located, they had to puncture through the muscle tissues, cartilage, and the outside wall of the lung into the area where my tumor was. They had to do this not once but twice to get a sample. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life – even worse than it would be having a lung removed.
The biopsy results confirmed the worst; it was lung cancer. I had a 3.6-centimetre tumor in my upper left lung. I named my tumor Wally Walnut because it was the size of a walnut and had a lobectomy of my upper left lobe within 3 weeks of confirmed diagnosis.
My second diagnosis came less than a year after my initial diagnosis. It happened after I came back from my three-month check-up with my thoracic surgeon. I had a growing pain near the right side of my groin, and we had initially thought it was because I pulled a muscle while exercising. Eventually, the pain grew so much that I got another biopsy done. We found two more tumors who I named: Lizzy and Liza lymph nodes.
I went from stage 1B to stage 4. I was presented with two options: radiation or surgery. If I went through with surgery, there was an 80% chance that I could lose the use of my leg. I opted for ten rounds of radiation instead. Thankfully, it resolved my issues. Now the tumors are just two pieces of charcoal rattling around in my leg.
My third diagnosis was a brain tumor in 2019. I found out I had a brain tumor when I was taken to one of the few medical clinics in Banff after losing the peripheral vision in my left eye at an event. I called this tumor Marshmallow Morgan. I am fortunate that it took only 3 stereotactic radiation treatments to destroy my tumor, most people are not so lucky.
I started my self-advocacy in 2012 because I wanted to address gaps I saw in the health care system, as well as the misinformation surrounding cancers of the lung. Shortly after being diagnosed with a cancer of the lungs, I met someone who told me that I deserved to have cancer of the lungs because I used to smoke. This made me question why there was still a stigma attached to cancers of the lungs because of smoking. The research clearly shows that cancers of the lungs are very complex, and unique, with by some estimates 100 distinct types and many not related to smoking.
I’m motivated to be an advocate because I know that lung cancer patients struggle to find accurate information online and suffer from unacceptable, and often misleading, stigmas. That’s why I started the Unmasking the Reality of Lung Cancer Society, a charitable organization that seeks to empower and educate current and future lung cancer patients. We also create educational tools including a booklet for doctor’s offices, available in eight different languages, to help people navigate the system and learn the reality of cancer of the lungs.
My message to people considering joining our advocacy efforts is the same one I use as the tagline for my organization: “everyone can be a pebble that creates the avalanche of change.” I want people to know there is a higher cause for our work, which will help people get access to the care and treatment they need to make cancer of the lungs an inconvenience, not a death sentence. Everyone deserves a full and happy life. Everyone can be a pebble. I hope you will come be part of my avalanche.
My story began in 2014 when I was fifty-nine years old. I kept complaining to my doctor about feeling pain on the left side of my neck. Due to my age and weight, I thought I had heart issues. As a result, my doctor ordered multiple heart investigations and they all came back negative. Despite this, the pain continued for over six months. I had tried a range of treatments from over-the-counter medicine to heat compression, and nothing was alleviating the pain.
One day the pain became unbearable, so I decided to go to the emergency department. When I met with the cardiologist, I explained that I had multiple heart investigations to discern the cause of my neck pain, but the tests came back normal. That day, the hospital booked me as an inpatient and began running scans on my chest.
A few days later, the doctor was waiting for me in the hospital room and said, “MaryAnn I must tell you something. Your admitting x-ray shows a shadow which I believe is lung cancer.” I was completely shocked. It was confirmed the next day when they did a CAT scan and found a 2.5-centimeter lesion in the upper right lobe of my right lung. Afterward, I had surgery to remove the lesion and have received routine checkups ever since.
I hope that sharing my story will encourage everyone to listen to their bodies and get screened for lung cancer early. I am especially concerned for working moms who are always on the go and not taking the time to listen to their bodies. Please take care of yourself and get your symptoms examined by a doctor as soon as possible. To those fighting lung cancer, I want to say: have hope and keep fighting. Please don’t give up the fight. I have seen people diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and told they have six months to live but survive for many more years.
Finally, I understand people’s hesitation with screening because of the stigmatization around smoking. I would encourage people to get proactively screened and have a baseline on their lung health. How amazing would it be if one could find lung cancer early and treat it before it gets to stage four? If you are at risk for lung cancer, please see your doctor and ask about lung cancer screening. If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer. It’s that simple.
*Lung cancer patients and caregivers are encouraged to join MaryAnn Bradley’s private Facebook group for lung cancer support and advocacy, Canadian Lung Cancer Advocacy – Breathe Hope.
My story started in 2010 when I saw a small ad in our local Ottawa newspaper recruiting volunteers to participate in a lung cancer study. My father had lung cancer, and things had not gone well for him. Even though I had quit smoking 13 years prior, I knew I was susceptible due to the genetic link, and I wanted to get involved with the study to learn more.
To participate in the study, I had to answer several questions and scored high enough to be onboarded. Unfortunately, during my participation, we found a small lesion in my right lung that was cancerous.
Meeting with an oncologist for the first time was surreal. I was thankful the doctors caught the lesion in its early stages, and because of that, I qualified for surgery with a promising outcome. I had my operation on Valentine’s Day in 2011, and it was a non-invasive video-assisted surgery. I left the hospital with only four tiny stitches.
Nearly 10 years after my diagnosis, I feel lucky to advocate for the lung cancer community because I have my health and I can. To those who are currently fighting lung cancer, I urge you to find whatever hope looks like to you and remember that advancements are being made to improve survivorship all the time. Finally, I understand the fear people may have with screening due to the stigmatization around smoking. It’s real, it still exists, but you don’t deserve cancer. You deserve this opportunity to reclaim your life. It is essential to take care of your health. Do it for your family. Do it for yourself.
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.
I remember the day my doctor told me I had lung cancer, it felt like I had been slapped in the face. It was 2017 and I had been experiencing severe back pain, so bad that it forced me to quit my job. After seeing my doctor and undergoing a number of tests, the diagnosis shocked me – stage 3 lung cancer. All I remember after that is the tears that came along with my diagnosis: how was I going to tell my family, my friends?
Initially, I was given traditional treatment options of chemotherapy and radiation. This took a toll on my health, but I knew it was an important first step in my fight. When my doctor later introduced a new treatment option, I was instantly optimistic.
Since starting immunotherapy I have energy again – I was even able to go back to work two days a week. 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.
People always ask me, what does survivorship mean? Lung cancer survivorship means another opportunity to live my life, to do the little things like spending time with my loved ones. I will never stop fighting for these little moments; it is my hope that with new treatments like immunotherapy, others will join this fight with me.
Click the video to hear my story. For more patient stories, click here.
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In April of 2016, at 70 years young, I was rushed to the hospital with what I thought was a heart attack. After many tests, it was decided that I had a gall bladder attack and my heart was fine. However, during the ultrasound a spot was discovered on my left lung. My diagnosis took four days and my doctors found I was in the very early stages of lung cancer.
Despite having quit smoking 20 years earlier, my cancer seemed to be growing at an alarming rate. I was sent to a marvellous surgeon who wanted to remove my cancer immediately. After my microscopic surgery I spent only two weeks in the hospital. At home, I was absolutely amazed at how little pain or discomfort I felt.
Soon, I will be celebrating my one year anniversary cancer free. I feel fabulous! I cannot thank my doctors enough for all the wonderful care I received. I am one very luck lady who has come home to enjoy the rest of my life!