LCFA is saddened by the loss of Donald Stranathan, who passed away on Saturday, February 1, 2020, after 10+ years as a lung cancer patient and advocate. Don will always be known for his commitment to advocating for lung cancer research and his involvement on patient advocacy councils. We were fortunate that he shared his story, but also that he lent his support to legions of patients and their families around the world.

Don’s Story: In His Own Words

In September of 2006, I was doing volunteer work at a local prison and went in for an x-ray for a standard TB test; they saw a shadow on my left lung. Over the next year, they did a few CT scans, and then a PET scan. The spot on my lung was not hot, but they said I had a lymph node that was warm. They then brought me in for a bronchoscopy, but were unable to biopsy the lymph node during that procedure; they did test the fluid around the lymph node and it was negative for cancer. The medical team wanted me to have another PET scan in a few months, it was now showing hot and I was referred to a doctor in Santa Clara about 100 miles from Santa Rosa.

I have another procedure, similar to the last and while going through my right lung they found a tumor. This time, I was diagnosed with non-small cell (Adenocarcinoma). The tumor was contained inside the bronchus tube of my upper right lobe.

Further Tests and Treatments

I had a needle biopsy done in July, 2009 on my left lung and they found cancer in the apex region. Cancer was now confirmed to be in both lungs and that would rule out surgery. Since June of 2009, I have had 15 treatments of radiation, six cycles of Taxol, Carbo, and Avastin, and then the cancer spread to my liver. I then did six cycles of Genzar along with Tarceva. My liver CT scan came back clean after three cycles of Genzar and my lungs were stable. I have been on 150 mg of Tarceva since 1-23-2010, my last CT scan was 12-26-2012 and I am still stable.

When I was first DX with Stage 4 Lung Cancer I immediately went to the internet and found statistics on my type and stage of cancer. The news was not very exciting, eight months to a year was what I was reading. You need to know these stats are five years old and before the introduction of a lot of new targeted therapies. I was DX with an enlarged heart in 1998 and was told I would need a heart transplant within two years. That’s when I started making plans for a new diet, exercise, and a new supplement, Co Q 10. I reversed the condition within 18 months. I am still living with the same heart, so I knew if I couldn’t beat cancer I could give it a run for the money.

Living Life to the Fullest

The last few years have been some of the best years of my life. In 2009 I started getting all my affairs in order, took care of my cremation, prepared my will, and wrote out all my wishes to my children. So I finished and I thought now what? Everything is in order treatment is going well and I am stable. I have no more worries about having enough money for retirement, so I decided to go out and live life to the fullest every day.

I am and was an avid hiker and mountain biker, so I continued those activities; even though there were times during chemotherapy I thought it would kill me. When I look back, I am sure a positive attitude and a drive to continue exercising has contributed to my stability these last four years.

I met a wonderful woman, Penny Blume, on a cancer website in October of 2010. Penny is a survivor of small cell lung cancer (extensive). We have taken turns traveling from California to New York to be with each other for the last 18 months. If it weren’t for cancer I would have never met the love of my life and truly understood the meaning of living life to the fullest one day at a time.