Linnea Olson was a force to be reckoned with, a trailblazer in lung cancer advocacy, and a kind, and hilarious soul who exemplified living life to its fullest. She was an unlikely patient – a 45-year-old never-smoker – who used her diagnosis to pave the way and improve the odds for other lung cancer patients. A fierce advocate for 16 years, Linnea succumbed to lung cancer in early November 2021, she was 61 years old.
Linnea was a mother, an artist, and an advocate. She did everything in her power to share her story from her path to diagnosis, her experience as a patient and participant in six different clinical trials, and even her dating life. With her signature sense of warmth and humor, she was unabashedly honest and forthcoming with her experiences, which served as a great comfort to the many people in the lung cancer community – patients and physicians alike – who considered her to be a role model.
Throughout the sixteen years that she lived with lung cancer, Linnea spoke at conferences around the world, providing education, motivation, and inspiration to countless people. She supported other patients, even mentoring them to become advocates as well.
Perseverance to Diagnosis
The path to Linnea’s diagnosis was not a straight one. It took several doctors, a few incorrect diagnoses, and a lot of perseverance to arrive at her lung cancer diagnosis. Throughout that process, Linnea became an expert at advocating for herself. She then took the lessons learned and did everything in her power to share with and support others on their own journeys. She was courageous – she participated in six clinical trials – and used that courage and experience to have a highly respected and beloved voice in the lung cancer advocacy community.
Linnea’s fortitude extended far beyond advocacy within the lung cancer community. Even with the knowledge that her disease was terminal, Linnea, in a quest for not only companionship, but a sense of normalcy, decided to delve into the world of online dating. During that process, she learned that while her lung cancer was very much a part of her, she was – and had far more to offer – than her diagnosis. When she led with “Linnea” and not cancer, things started to look up.
“The effect on my sense of self was astounding. I hadn’t even realized how much cancer had become part of my identity but once I shed it (even temporarily), I felt so free, so strong, so healthy, so very me.”
A favorite line of conversation with Linnea was her stories of dating while a lung cancer patient. She hilariously shared her various processes: lead with the diagnosis, not mention it, or wait til at least the second date. She was well aware of her mortality and wanted nothing more than to enjoy every moment she had; be it with her children, her art, or a first date. Her zest for life was incomparable.
Helping Patients to Find Their Voice
An active and enthusiastic member of LCFA’s Speakers Bureau, over the years Linnea helped newly diagnosed patients find their own voice to advocate for the best treatment plan. It was not enough for her to put herself out there for the benefit of patients, their families, and physicians; Linnea also encouraged so many lung cancer patients to advocate for themselves and for others, helping patients know the right test to get and the right questions to ask to be part of their own treatment plans. Linnea’s participation in LCFA’s Hope With Answers Podcasts is lasting evidence of her dedication to her fellow lung cancer patients. The warmth, honesty, and kindness she shared with innumerable people in the lung cancer community will surely be her legacy.
At LCFA we were grateful for and proud of Linnea’s hard work, gentle nature, and unwavering optimism and perseverance.