Lung cancer survivors are a small and very special group. They might have been diagnosed at different stages and different ages. Their lung cancers might have different biomarkers. But the theme that runs through each of these stories is hope.
To celebrate Lung Cancer Awareness Month, meet these 5 lung cancer survivors who have shared their stories with Lung Cancer Foundation of America.
1. Juanita Segura
Juanita Segura calls herself “a CrossFit diva.” The fit and active 47-year-old is a mother, fan of the Chicago Bears, and certified trainer.
Juanita was in the process of opening her own CrossFit studio when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. 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 and her doctor recommended chemotherapy and radiation immediately and has shown significant improvement. She encourages anyone who’s been diagnosed with lung cancer to have genomic testing performed immediately and assemble a proactive oncology team, and 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
Lysa Buonanno had just graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree when a persistent back pain forced her into the emergency clinic. She was given 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, one that is found in only 1 out of 100 lung cancer patients. A drug, Xalkori, had been 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
When you look at Missy, a 47 year-old mother of two who teaches kindergarten and 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. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, genetic testing of her tumor was not offered. “That was incredibly frustrating that it existed and we didn’t know about it,” she says of the hospital not having the capacity.
Missy was given the accepted standard of care at the time, but her cancer returned. Find out how lung cancer research helped Missy get to the status of “no evidence of disease.”
4. David Sturges
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.
After his diagnosis, David became acutely aware that lung cancer research is severely underfunded and is the biggest cancer killer in the United States every year. Because of this, David has dedicated the years since his diagnosis to advocating for increased funding for research and raising awareness of lung cancer’s significant public health impact. David sits on the Board of Directors of Lung Cancer Foundation of America, which he helped to found in 2007.
5. Michael Weitz
In the blink of an eye, Michael Weitz’s world was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He was 49 years old 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 and is 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.”
Share these stories (or those of other inspirational lung cancer survivors) with 5 of your friends on Facebook with the hashtag #LungCancerAwarenessMonth.