Meet these 5 lung cancer survivors who have shared their stories with Lung Cancer Foundation of America.
They might have been diagnosed at different stages and different ages. Their lung cancers might have different biomarkers. But each of these stories’ common theme is HOPE – thanks to new lung cancer research discoveries in recent years.
1. Juanita Segura – Inspired by Faith and Family
A fit and active 47-year-old mother, Chicago Bears fan, and certified trainer, Juanita Segura calls herself “a CrossFit diva.”
While opening her own CrossFit studio, tests confirmed a lung cancer diagnosis. The diagnosis was so shocking that she couldn’t bring herself to research the disease or possible treatments.
Even though Juanita had biomarker testing, her cancer was very aggressive. Her doctor recommended chemotherapy and radiation immediately and Juanita has shown significant improvement. She encourages anyone diagnosed with lung cancer to have genomic testing performed immediately. Juanite also recommends assembling a proactive oncology team. She credits her family and faith with her positive outlook.
“I don’t care what faith you are, you’ve got to believe in something and hold onto that faith,” she says.
Today, Juanita is feeling strong enough to fulfill her dream of opening her own CrossFit studio: Region Rat CrossFit in Griffith, Indiana, near Chicago. Fluent in Spanish, she is also eager for any chance to share her experience with and learnings from life with lung cancer with the Spanish-speaking community.
Find out more on how Juanita helps other lung cancer patients with her social media and volunteer efforts.
2. Lysa Buonanno – Lung Cancer Survivor Inspired to Celebrate
Lysa Buonanno had just graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree when a persistent back pain forced her into the emergency clinic. Her doctors gave her a 2% chance of living 5 years following her lung cancer diagnosis. But another miniscule statistic saved her life. Lysa’s cancer has a rare genetic mutation found in only 1 out of 100 lung cancer patients. Scientists had developed a drug, Xalkori, designed for that mutation.
While it usually only stops tumor growth in patients for an average of one year, in Lysa’s case it has kept her cancer in remission for over three years. In September of 2016, Lysa celebrated the 5 year anniversary of her diagnosis with a big party with family and friends. Read more about Lysa’s unexpected journey from diagnosis to celebration.
3. Missy Petersen – Kindergarten Teacher Living With Lung Cancer
When you look at Missy, a 47-year-old mother of two who has never smoked, lung cancer is definitely NOT something that comes to mind. But people exactly like Missy are the new faces of this disease. The doctors did not offer genetic testing of her tumor when they diagnosed her lung cancer.
“That was incredibly frustrating that it existed and we didn’t know about it,” she says of the hospital not having the capacity.
Although given the accepted standard of care at the time, Missy’s cancer returned. Find out how lung cancer research helped Missy get to the status of “no evidence of disease.”
4. David Sturges – Lung Cancer Survivor Advocate for Research
An attorney and lung cancer survivor, David Sturges was diagnosed 22 years after he quit smoking and a little over one year after he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. He underwent surgery for removal of two lobes of his right lung.
Since his diagnosis, David advocates for increased research funding. Currently David sits on the Board of Directors of Lung Cancer Foundation of America, which he helped to found in 2007. In addition, he continues to make media tours to raising awareness of lung cancer’s significant public health impact while lung cancer research is severely underfunded.
5. Michael Weitz – Survivor and Ardent Advocate for Research
In the blink of an eye, 49-year-old Michael Weitz’s world was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and given 4 to 8 months to live.
Michael underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and removal of his left lung. Later, he found out that the cancer had spread to his brain. But Michael’s mom heard a story about targeted therapies and urged him to get tested. While skeptical that it could help, Michael underwent biomarker testing and a whole new world opened to him.
Today, Michael sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of Lung Cancer Foundation of America. Always an active advocate for lung cancer patients, he encourages everyone diagnosed with lung cancer to insist on biomarker testing.
He says, “My ultimate goal is not necessarily to cure the disease, but to successfully manage the disease.”
Read more inspirational stories of lung cancer survivors
New and life-saving treatments, along with clinical trials, are happening rapidly. Read more about people living with lung cancer.