Spreading Love and Coping with Lung Cancer: Lisa James’s Story

LCFA is saddened by the loss of Lisa James who passed away in 2020. When she was diagnosed, at age 47, she had just started a fabulous new life with her new husband, Preston. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer she was told she had only months to live. Right then and there, she and Preston decided to show the world how you live and not to show the world how you die.

Lisa truly lived life to its fullest and will be sorely missed by the entire lung cancer community.

Newlywed Lisa Faces Lung Cancer Journey

In 2014, 47-year-old Lisa James reconnected on Facebook with Preston, a second-grade classmate she hadn’t seen in 35 years. One thing lead to another, and suddenly Lisa was moving from her lifelong home in Harlem, New York to be with Preston in Michigan. Soon after, Preston asked Lisa to be his wife. Spoiler alert: she enthusiastically accepted!

Lisa and Preston were married in June 2014 in Jamaica. Almost a full year later, Lisa, who had undergone a stem-to-stern physical before leaving New York, learned she had Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. So close to their first anniversary, Preston and Lisa faced the difficult challenge of coping with lung cancer.

It all happened so fast. Lisa recalls dinner and a movie with Preston before heading to bed. A seemingly ordinary evening changed, however, when Lisa woke up with a strange feeling in her chest. She initially assumed it was acid reflux and an incessant need to clear her throat. When the feeling wouldn’t go away, Lisa made a plan to phone her primary care physician. The following day, during her lunch break, Lisa went to the doctor and was diagnosed with asthma. When an Albuterol treatment did nothing to allay her symptoms, however, her doctors performed a chest x-ray. There was a mass in her lungs. Lisa then had a CT scan, a PET scan, and a needle biopsy in quick succession.

From the outset, Lisa vowed to stay positive.

Lisa: “I’m going to live, right?”
The doctors: “You’re going to have to fight.”

And fight she has.

Aggressive Treatment Gives Lisa Back Her Freedom

Lisa’s initial treatment plan consisted of two doses of “light chemo,” during which her tumors doubled in size. Her doctor knew of a clinical trial of immunotherapy treatment that he believed was worth trying. Six weeks in, Lisa’s breathing capabilities returned, and she had the strength to walk for the first time since her diagnosis. She even made a grand entrance at an event for Preston, drawing applause from the crowd of people who knew her story. The treatment kept her disease at bay for two full years. Lisa and Preston were coping with her life-changing lung cancer diagnosis.

Lisa then underwent a procedure in which surgeons were able to clip off the cancer by entering her lungs through the mouth. They sent the sample off to Germany hoping to see if it could be treated with a vaccine, but the report determined there was not enough cancer in the lung to treat. Both good and bad news.

Back On Her Feet, Lisa Is Sharing Her Story

Lisa went on to have radiation treatments every day for three weeks, every three months. She is currently on chemo and is considered stable.

Lisa is a spiritual and devout woman. She is also a dynamo. Fully aware of the seriousness of her disease and the power she had to help others, Lisa and Preston took to the road, sharing with other terminally ill patients their message of love, strength and healing. Their travels took them to Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Livingston, Montana. The only thing preventing her from traveling to even more places is her compromised and fragile immune system. Lisa, who has already far outlived her initial prognosis, is enjoying every single moment.

“Mine is a beautiful life. My walk, my faith, my environment, and my husband are all beautiful. I spread a lot of love to a lot of people. I don’t have time to sit around thinking about it…I’m just living life. I’m happy. I’m good.”