Myth # 2: Lung Cancer is a Death Sentence

When my Mom was diagnosed it was a sock in the stomach, but the blows only got worse as I learned more about her diagnosis.

Before she was even officially staged I ran through the statistics I found on the web.  This, I soon learned, was a very bad idea….

Because the statistics were terrible!!!  I clearly remember reading, “Five Year Survival Rate for Stage IV Lung Cancer:  2%”  and freaking out.  I kept thinking–2% is a kind of milk you buy.  It should not be a number representing the chance of being with your Mom in five years.

I was despondent and dismal and terrified and resolved not to tell Mom what I found. 

Then I found the Lung Cancer Support Community.  I read a few pages.  I read a few profiles.  Then I read a few more.  I gravitated to the words “Stage IV.”  And guess what?  I found survivorsI found folks with Lung Cancer who were living “new normal” lives.  I found people who didn’t give up.  I found resources and information and the right questions to ask one’s doctor.  And then, then I had hope.  And I grabbed onto it and didn’t let go.  I learned that my Mom was not a statistic and we could only wait and see what would happen in her battle.

Guess what.  Even though my Mom gave her life battling Lung Cancer, I still haven’t lost that hope.

Because I learned that Lung Cancer isn’t always a death sentence.  I’ve made friends at that board who are Stage III and Stage IV survivors for 1, 2, even 3 years.  Some have been able to undergo surgery (this is most often not possible with late stages).  Some have just kept trying treatments until they found the ones that worked, and when those treatments stopped working, theyfound another.  Some have danced with our favorite guy NED (No Evidence of Disease) for quite some time.  Some have continued to have cancer in their bodies, but it has remained stable and the chemo’s and therapies they’ve tried have kept things at bay.

Furthermore, I learned that if the cancer is caught at an early stage and surgery is an option survival rates climb dramatically!  When the cancer can be surgically removed at an early stage the chances are better that a person can be around a long, long while.  I think of my Dad’s very special friend, Shari, who has been a Lung Cancer survivor for over 12 years now! 

(Incidentally, that is why it is so very important that a reliable method for screening for Lung Cancer be found, whether it’s Spiral CT scans, or a simple blood test–both possibilities in the works–or something that hasn’t even been thought of.  The chance to detect the cancer before it is in the late stages is the best chance that we have to see the tide turn in this war.)

Lung Cancer is devastating and the statistics surrounding it are far lower than they should be, but it does not have to be a death sentence!

It is imperative that people begin to believe that Lung Cancer is a disease that can be fought!  Why do I say this?  I say it because over and over and over and over and over again we get new-comers to the boards who are late stage whose doctors have given up on them before they were even given the chance to fight.  They are given words like ‘palliative treatment only’ and ‘incurable.’  Sometimes those words are the reality.  Late stage Lung Cancer is considered to be incurable.  But there is still a fight worth waging.  There are still good days to be had, and moments to be made, and time to stretch out for as long as possible (always balancing quality of life, of course).

If so many doctors believe there is no hope….  then there are a lot of people out there who might not be treated as aggressively as they should be (Important lesson here:  Always seek a second opinion!!!!).  It is a sad reality that we often really have only ourselves to advocate for us.  With Lung Cancer, too many times doctors are ready to throw in the towel at diagnosis even when there are promising treatments to be tried. 

I am a strong believer that even with a Stage IV diagnosis there is hope for a cure, if only because with life-extending treatments–and enough of them that work–there is always the hope that one can buy enough time for them to find the kick-ass treatment that will keep the disease at bay–or even extinguish it.

Two stories to highlight:

My friend Kasey was told over two years ago that she should not expect to see the flowers bloom in the following spring.  She was diagnosed with a Non-small Cell Pancoast Tumor, Stage 3A.  She was told it was inoperable and incurable.

She came to LCSC and found a couple of women who had diagnoses similar to hers.  They told her emphatically to seek a second opinion and even helped her get to the right docs to see.  She was able to have a very successful surgery.

Kasey is over 2 years out from diagnosis with No Evidence of Disease! 

Rich–one of the main coordinators of the Boston Lung Cancer Walk/Fun Run this weekend, was diagnosed in 2002 with Stage IV BAC.  He was given a prognosis of 24 months.  He has been through treatment after treatment after treatment….  BUT–Here in November of 2006 he put together one of the most successful fund-raising events for Lung Cancer research in history, and walked himself on top of it all!

Lung Cancer is not a death sentence.  It is not an easy battle to fight, but it is one that can be fought with success.  There is reason to hope.  And the more hope that we can grab onto–the more people who believe that this is a disease worth fighting–the more progress we’re going to make in the quest to eradicate it once and for all.

Grab onto the hope and run with it!


41 thoughts on “Myth # 2: Lung Cancer is a Death Sentence

  1. Val,

    do you mind if I post this to BlogHer on Friday? I’ll link back to you. This is a really good post (you’re getting BlogHer mentions left and right these days!)


  2. Hey Val,

    Thank you for sharing part of my story. May it may bring hope to someone out there. I find this whole blog just AMAZING. Thank you for what you are doing.


  3. I just wanted to say reading this has made me feel a little better. My dad just got diagnosed with BAC cancer, I dont know yet what stage, and Im praying that he can fight it and be with us for a long time to come. He had surgery and got his tumors removed from both lungs. I hope and pray it doesnt come back.

  4. Reading this made me feel better .I was diagnosed with stage 111 lung cancer in May .I had surgery in June and started chemo. in Augest .I,m feeling fine and started back to work before Christmas.I pray to God it never comes back

    • I was was diaognosed with lung cancer stage 3A. On Monday, they will agressively start chemo and them operation. I have never smoked in my life or abused my body in anyway with drugs, etc. I am going to fight this thing because I am only 54 health mother and I want to be around tosee my grandchildren.

      • I just wanted to post a reply to the message my Mum posted about 18 months ago…My Mum is doing very well! She had her right lung removed in October 2009 and her scans to date have been clear (NED)! Exactly 12 months (to the exact date), since Mum was dx with NSCLC stage 3A, my daughter, Michaela was born…So not only has she been successfully fighting her lug cancer but she is also a grandmother now!

  5. I have read this and found it very hopeful. My mum (non Smoker) in January has been diagnosed with Lung Cancer, stage 3a. She has started treatment (Chemo Therepy). I have found the news devestating. I want her to get better. The doctors say it is incurable, but I hope that the chemo shrinks the tumoir so that she can have surgery. I pray to god she gets better and that the cancer goes away.

  6. I found this story very uplifting and I truly thank you for sharing it! My Mother has recently been diagnosed with NSCLC and I just pray that God will wrap his arms around her as she battles this disease. She has the courage, endurance, strength and much loving support around her. All the prayers in the world can’t be enough. God Bless all of you out there who are dealing with such a disease.

  7. MY wife is a 32 yr old non smoker with stage 4 NSCLC with lYmphnode involvement. Thanks for the help. SHe takes DCA once a day and gets chemo weekly and currently her lymphnodes are clear of any cancer after about 14 weeks. Her CEA is half what it was before DCA so we are hopefull. I did see DCA in action on a skin growth that dissapeared after 24 hours- blew me away – being it was on a persons arm who has stage 4 pancreatic cancer! anyway if DCA can do that with direct contact I beleive its a powerfull chemical for cancer and any other run away cell issue.

    God Bless

  8. Lactic Acid is the largest player in cancer spread through tissue so PH you system – like a swimming pool – silly well I do not think so. If lactic acid is what the cancer cell lives in and produces and uses to burn to its next location when not in the blood why not alakaline and corral the little freak

  9. I want to tell you about my wife of 41yrs. ANNA was diagnosed in November 2004 with inoperable stage iv cancer. At this time we were devastated but we turned over our lives to GOD and put our trust in her doctors totaly turning her life over to their care. Iwas not allowed to talk with her dr. as he stated I treat the patient and not the family. On october 8,2007 after over 120 chemos 60 radiation treatments and several brain surgeries to remove 3 giant tumors anna sadly and suddenly passed away.

  10. Thanks for your blog. Reading it made me so happy. My mom has stage 4 lung cancer and her doctor told me “there is no cure.” You have given me hope. I will pass this hope onto her.
    Thank you.

  11. Wow,
    Thank you so much for putting your story out. My best friend’s Dad has lung cancer and they found out about a month ago.It’s just been really difficult on all of us. We just kinda took everyday for grantented never relizing it could hit one of us like this, but it has opened our eyes and we see how much we’ve been blessed. We’ve been praying that this soon to be long journy all ends well, because anymore isn’t that all you can do? We have faith and your story really gave me hope so thanks again:)

  12. Thank you for writing that. My mom was diagnosed with Stage IIIA lung cancer Oct. 2008. She had one lung removed. She is undergoing her 2nd round of chemo now. It is hard watching her go through all of this. Your article gave me the hope I needed today. God bless you and your family. From one daughter to the other. Your mom inspired you to lift up my day and many others. She is still here andhelping others heal through you.

  13. Wow, I stumbled upon your website post this morning. My mom was diagnosed with Stage IIIA lung cancer August 2010. She had one lung removed. She will be meeting with the oncologist this week to find out if she needs chemo or radiation now. Your post gave me the hope I needed, as like you I read the statistics on-line and automatically think the worst. Your story has inspored me to be strong for my mom and my family. God bless you and your family.

    • Jorja, I’m so glad that the post you read was an encouragement to you. I mentioned it in the post, but I would really, really encourage you to seek out the messageboards at . Note–I don’t work for LCSC or LUNGevity, though I have been a moderator on the boards in the past. It’s just that it was THE organization that gave me the support and encouragement and hope that I needed to support my Mom in her battle and to deal with my own emotions throughout the process. I just can’t help but speak highly of them. You WILL find people who are battling this disease and living longer than their doctors ever expected there. There are many reasons to hold onto hope. I’m praying for your Mama and for you today. Neither of you are alone on this journey. Val from “Stumbling Barefoot”

  14. thank you so much for the encouragement I have received from all of these statements from different people who were also diagnosed with stage 3a lung cancer.My husband died in07 and his aunt and uncle died in 08.I was just diagnosed,and I AM ONLY 63 YEARS OLD,AND have had major heart surgery in 08.I am presently received chemo and will start radiation also,and I WILL Pray for GOD to give me a few more years to see my grandchildren get alittle older,the youngest is only 6.

  15. This story really helped me. My father was just diagnosed with stage 3A lung cancer. By what I have been reading online the stats are horrible it kind of left me with no hope. They say that my dads cancer is inoperable but he will get both chemo and radiation. My dad is a very strong man and I’m only going to hope and pray that he will beat this. It’s really good to know that there are people out there to give us hope. thank you so much!

  16. Thank you for sharing this. It brings not only hope but a bit of reality. I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer on 11-16-08. Pancreatic cancer has been referred to over and over again as a death sentence. Even at work one day, I heard the CEO referring to pancreatic cancer in this way. My mom was still alive at the time and it hurt. I never knew the stage of my mom’s cancer, just that there was no way to remove the tumor because of where it was located. One day I hope there is a cure for all cancers. Take care ~ Kathy

  17. In March of 2011 I was diagnosed with stage 4 non small cell lung and brain cancer, and I had also suffered a tumour in my Pituitary which has stopped that from working. The cancer is not due to life style, but was a rare gene mutating form of cancer which spread very aggressively. I was given 3 months to live at that point. 3 months later I was given 6-9 months.
    I was 44, fit and active, married with 2 lovely daughters of 17+18, ran my own small business and my wife and I also had 2 Foster children at that time.
    12 months on I am healthier now than I was when diagnosed. I have undergone, at the Christie hospital, fantastic treatment, including radiation therapy to my brain, and I am currently on my 2nd type of Chemotherapy, which is continuing to work.
    I have maintained a very positive outlook through out everything, which i know is easier said than done sometimes, but I know it helps. This is no ones fault, and in many ways is harder for the family and friends I will leave behind one day.
    Not for a long time though.
    My aim is that each time I go to the hospital they say 6-9 months to me. I have looked at 5 year survival rates, and i aim to be in the 10% that survives. I am also looking at being here in 10 years, because i refuse to accept that this will be beat me.
    I am still trying to keep fit and i have had very few side effects i cannot handle from my treatments, and in that I know I am very lucky.
    My story may not be the norm for sure, but I hope it gives others hope, and if anyone wants to ask me specific questions I will try my hardest to answer.
    Do not give up

    • Wow, how inspiring. My mom was just diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that metastasis to the brain and from what I’ve read, is a death sentence within the year. Thank you for the hope! God bless you and your family.

  18. I can’t thank u enough for these encouraging words.. My father in law is right now in Boston getting a second opinion .. He has stage 4 non small cell lung cancer… My husband sent me a text… It says ” here in Boston same grim news” .. We really din’t know where to turn.. But your words have me hope and I thank you! So sorry for the loss of your mom..

  19. Not a death sentence? You shouldn’t lie to your readers. Stage 4 is most certainly. Sure, all they can hope for is a little more time. But whether it’s 2 years or 5, they will eventually succumb. That’s not to say they shouldn’t fight and hope for more time. But accepting that they are frail, that everybody dies is apart of being human. I lost my grandmother 2 months ago and never being able to see her again is such a strange thought… To those of you with cancer, enjoy the time you have. Love. Laugh. I’m wishing you the best.

  20. I just found out yesteday, my mother at is a t Stage IV lung cancer which has spread to her breast. I feel as if someone had pulled me heart from my chest. I didn’t want to research the statistics because they few I did, were bleak. I started going to sites that had survivors because we intend to fight this to the very end. I am very scared. Just like any fight, the fear is there until the adrenaline kicks in and we’re off to the big dance. I love hearing these stories because they give me hope and I have to be there for my mother. Please with us the best and please continue to post the successes. They keep me positive and going.

  21. Thank God for this site. I only wish I would have found something like this years ago! Friday was 9 years since I lost my mother to Stage IV Lung Cancer or should I say when my mother was killed. She was an incredibly healthy and strong woman who pulled something in her back. She went to the doctor and was diagnoised and put on paid medication. It was determined she had a spinal fracture. She was sent home after diagnosis. We then went for a second opinion and to stabalize her spine. Once this was done she was sent home on numerous meds for pain and hospic with the news that maybe she had 3 months. Well she was diagnosised January 11 and died February 15. When she came home from the hospital she was on numerous pain meds. One of which was a patch. Hospice kept telling us to give her the meds to use the patch so she would not be in pain. We did and she became comatose. Hospice kept telling us it was to be expected. I called the doctors office the hospital, everyone and they all said the same thing! My sisters and I were told over and over it was to be expected. After her funeral we got a notice from the pharmacy that the patch was defected and could possibly overdose the patient. I knew in my gut things were not right! All I wanted was for my mother to be able to sleep in her bed, to walk in her house and garden. To say goodbye. She was denied this. A few months? She had a couple of weeks! She went from cooking Christmas Dinner to dying in less than two months! Because she was 85 she was stamped as dying, no hope! She was an incredibly strong and active woman who I believed would live to be over 100. She was so much stronger than I was! Because of the callous, uncaring and incompetant care she received she was cheated out of months of life. I am responsible for not taking care of my mother, for not making sure she was treated and protected. My sisters and I failed her. It has taken years for me to accept this and I will forever regret failing my mother.

  22. At age 56 my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 nsclc .After radiation and several regiments of chemo she still has a good quality of life going on 6 year 4 months later. She rides her horse almost every day and competes in the hunter division at several horse shows. Still has enough energy to enjoy playing with her four grand children. Still going strong but living Scran by scan with a positive attitude! Stay strong.

    • You have just brought me new hope – I have recently just been diagnosed with stage 4 nsclc – and it feels like a death sentence. After reading your post – I will remain strong – surround myself with love and positive energy!!

      • Yes, just remain strong. Believe that you can tide over this and you really shall. Its all possible.

  23. Dear Blogger,

    I chanced to see this blog today and i cannot tell you personally how much relief it has been to me, just reading each of those words in the blog. thank you for your wonderful words and thoughts. They have been a source of solace and encouragement to me.

    Here is my long story :

    My dad was diagnosed with Stomach cancer in the December of 2009 (december the 25th, hard to forget that day!) and was subsequently operated a fortnight later in the month of January 2010. It was a complete gastrectomy and partial esophagectomy (total stomach and partial food pipe).
    He was 62 then. He was not recommended for a chemo as the cancer was found to be stage 2 and had not metastized (big mistake, i believe on the part of doctors)….From 2010 till 2013, he had a tremendous recovery and improvement…he had gained back his original weight and was doing so well…and then IT happened!….Fastforward to March of 2013, he was diagnosed with NSCLC (in the Left lung). No mutation found to take advantage of the targetted chemotherapy..and after ten thousand tests, it was diagonsed as Stage 4. I failed to understand why it took doctors over a month and a half and so many tests to determine the stage of the cancer. They were not sure if it was a met..from the previous stomach cancer ..resurfacing after 3 years..or was it a primary in the lung. (dad was a long long time smoker till 2009 when he quit it for good) .
    It was a shocker for the entire family for many reasons (and only two months before, in the month of January 2013, my sister aged 35 years was diagnosed for Ovarian cancer!)

    As people say, I really could not “ask for more”. This was the lowest period of my entire sojourn on earth (i am elder to my sister by a year and a half).

    Dad lost weight, lost hope…we lost hope too. The treatment began, an intense IGRT for 36 days followed by a low dose of weekly chemo (cisplatin). It was a living hell for him and us. Initially, he was ok , but as the days progressed and the intensity of the radiation, it was a hell for him to swallow food, drink water or take in anything. He prefered to starve rather than have something. He survived through those 36 horrible days (we survived too). He was famished, starved and the most pathetic looking dad i could ever have imagined of him :-(.
    A couple of days after the treatment stopped, his condition began to improve and he was able to eat better than the past few weeks. he steadily improved..or we thought so.
    After a 6 week respite, a CT scan revealed a minor hot-spot on his right lung this time. He was treated for a 4 day period with what they called a cyber-knife..which i believe is an advanced and precision guided Raditaion Therapy. and he was recommended for a “palliative chemotherapy of 4 sessions for every 21 days.
    This time, the chemotherapy dosage was more intense and severe. (Seeing and hearing the chemotherapy stories was not new to us anymore, my Sister who was undergoing her treatment for ovarian cancer recounted her horrible stories as they unfolded…it was a night mare to talk to her…it was eating my heart and soul and mind out to see my loved ones suffer and live the horror).

    I have realized that when cancer strikes your loved ones, it also strikes you! They suffer the physical pain and you suffer the mental pain.

    2 Sessions of chemotherapy have concluded. Dad continues to be in a roller coaster curve. He is down a few days after the chemo..and then seems to improve..and then he is given an other session and goes down again! 2 more sessions to go which probably will conclude by this month end (october 2013).

    I only pray to the god , angels and good spiritis up there…to bless him and us. All our prayers are around his health.

    Dont know what more to write, i am overwhelmed now.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts…you are wonderful.

  24. June 26th, 2013 at 5:52 PM, I lost my little sister to Stage 4 lung cancer. Her diagnosis was not good as it had progressed to her back and her shoulder. She took the news of her condition like the caring and loving person she was…she concerned for her family and how they would adjust in her absence; this is so typical of her; she is not concerned for herself but for others. The pain doesn’t go away, it only subsides for periods of time to only come back in a wave, covering everything in it’s path. She is missed dearly.

  25. I am so glad to have found this. My mum has just been diagnoised with stage 4 lung cancer and first thing I do is Google and find horrible stats. This has lifted my hopes..I always thought my mum will outlive me.. I hope God helps her fight back…
    Thank you!

  26. i have just been diagnosed with stage 4 nslc and am scared to death, dont know where to turn and want to fight but dont know how, i have no health insurance only the veterans hospital, and suggestions i want to stay positive and fight but dont know where or please

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