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Community Advocates

In order to stay up to date on the latest treatments, drug discovery, clinical studies, and how to cope with lung cancer every day, brings you frequent articles, blogs, opinions, and advice from leading patient advocates and professional medical experts.

Current advocates

Ronda Beaty

In December 2016, I was a healthy 51-year-old Mother of 2 grown daughters. I had been weightlifting regularly for over three years and was in the best shape of my life. I had taken a break from the gym, as is often recommended, to give my muscles a break. In a few short days I found myself getting winded while climbing the stairs at home. Several trips to the doctor, having been diagnosed with pneumonia, several antibiotics, resulted in no improvement.  January 11th, 2017, everything changed. Read more.

Dave Bjork

​Dave Bjork is a lung cancer survivor who was diagnosed when he was 34 years old and his boys were 5, 3 and 1 years old. After his diagnosis, his life was forever changed. There were appointments with respiratory specialists, CT scans, MRIs, surgeons, and lots of time to worry “am I going to die?” After the lobectomy (removal of half of his left lung), came months of treatment and painful recovery. He kept telling himself, “one day at a time…one hour at a time…one minute at a time”. Read more.

Alisa Brenes

I am a 17.5 year Stage 3 lung cancer survivor/advocate, diagnosed just months after my Mom passed away from lung cancer (I have a family history of lung cancer going back generations). I am a single mother of twin boys who were 10 years old at the time of my diagnosis and I didn’t know if I would be around to see them graduate elementary school. Not only did I see that graduation, but I saw them graduate Jr. High, High School and University! Read more.

Angie Brice

It started with a cough that kept me up til dawn. Sure I was always exhausted, losing weight, and lacking in appetite but I attributed that to having a 3 and 5 year old, going to the gym and being too busy and stressed to sit down and eat. What finally gave me room for pause was when I started coughing up blood. Read more.

Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo

Yolanda is the Founder and Executive Director of Mae’s Breath Foundation 501c (3) a lung cancer awareness organization which promotes and provides information to the community on lung wellness. The premise of the organization began immediately after losing her mother Eartha (AKA Mae) from the disease. It’s been a mission of hers to assist in guidance by bringing awareness to this stigmatized disease, with dignity for those who come close to it. Read more.

Lysa Buonanno

I am a mom to two great kids and I’m lucky enough to be married to my best friend. After recently graduating from college, at 40 years old, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. It’s not the diagnosis I expected from a lingering back pain. It took me some time to wrap my head around it all, but once I did, I knew I needed to find my new purpose in life. This is when I became an advocate. Read more.

Kristine Cherol

Kristine’s life instantly changed when her husband (then boyfriend) John was diagnosed with Stage IV NSCLC (EGFR+) at age 28 in January 2016. She became John’s primary caregiver, medical researcher and then advocate. During John’s battle, they relocated from Ohio to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Kristine currently resides. On September 9, 2017, they had the wedding of their dreams. John underwent two types of targeted therapies (Gilotrif and Tagrisso), standard chemotherapy, numerous rounds of external beam radiation to bone mets, three rounds of Gamma Knife radiation for brain mets, and SBRT for spinal lesions. On January 6, 2018, John passed away with Kristine by his side on the two year anniversary of his diagnosis. Read more.

Deena Cook

In July 2012 I was diagnosed with NSCLC after my lower left lobe was surgically removed. Six months later a second primary tumor was “rediscovered” in my upper left lobe. A second surgery took care of that! I subsequently learned just how lucky I am that my lung cancers were diagnosed early. I also believe “luck” should have no role in surviving cancer. Read more.

Denise Cutlip

Denise Cutlip was diagnosed with stage 4 Adenocarcinoma of the Lung in October of 2010. At that time they told her she might live 10-15 months with aggressive treatments. Fortunately, they didn’t tell her when to start counting those months. She had a tremendous response to concurrent chemo and radiation. She has not yet experienced any progression, but has experienced several long term side effects from both treatments and side effects caused by management of those side effects. Read more.

KC Dill

K.C Dill is a second generation lung cancer patient diagnosed with stage 3b NSCLC in 2015 at the age of 40. After receiving chemotherapy and radiation, her healthcare team was not optimistic—her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and progressed to stage 4. Read more.

Dusty Donaldson

Dusty Donaldson was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, at the age of 51. She underwent surgery to remove two lobes from her right lung, followed by adjuvant chemotherapy. She completed treatment within six months of her diagnosis and has been out of treatment since March 2006. Read more.

Ivy Elkins

In December 2013, Ivy Elkins was diagnosed at age 47 with EGFR positive stage IV lung cancer that had metastasized to her bones and brain. She has been treated successfully with targeted therapy medications since her diagnosis, thus allowing her to lead an active life and handle her lung cancer as a chronic disease. Ivy receives her treatment at the University of Chicago and lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband Ben and her two teenaged boys. Read more.

Jill Feldman

Jill Feldman is a lung cancer patient and activist. When Jill was 13 years old, she lost her father and two grandparents to lung cancer within a period of eight months. Fourteen years later, her mom and close aunt succumbed to the disease within a two-year period. Jill was a volunteer, an advocate and past president of LUNGevity Foundation before the unthinkable happened. In 2009, at 39 years old with four small children, Jill herself was diagnosed with lung cancer. Read more.

Donna Fernandez

Hi, I am Donna Fernandez! I am a daughter, wife, mom, grandmother, animal lover extraordinaire, and a lung cancer survivor. I am a native Texan, a relatively rare breed these days! I was born in Dallas, but I grew up in West Texas, oil country. I moved back to the Dallas area after high school and have been here ever since. Read more.

Christina Hegarty

Dr. Christina Hegarty, PT, DPT, is a doctor of physical therapy currently licensed and practicing in Mississippi. Christina is a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where she was born and raised. She obtained her bachelor degree in exercise science from the University of Mississippi in 2011 and her doctorate degree in physical therapy from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2014. Read more.

Mariah Zebrowski Leach

Mariah is a writer and patient advocate who lives in Colorado with her husband and two young sons. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the middle of law school, Mariah now uses her law degree to help people with chronic health issues. Read more.

Kathi MacNaughton, RN, BSN

I am an experienced consumer health education writer who had a career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years, much of it in the field of home health care, working with chronically ill people. I am also an avid fitness enthusiast and all-round advocate for healthy living. I believe that patients and families have not only a right, but also the responsibility to take charge of their own health. No one needs to give in to a disease or to the aging process! It is possible to continue to live a quality life. Read more.

Lisa Moran

Lisa Moran has been surviving late stage lung cancer since being diagnosed in August 2015 with stage iv non-small cell lung cancer with metastasis to the spine. She has tested positive for the EGFR and T790m mutations. Her lung cancer treatments have been targeted therapies and radiation to the lung and spine. Read more.

Rebecca Palpant-Shimkets

Rebecca Palpant Shimkets is a two-time thyroid cancer survivor and the daughter of two cancer survivors. Fourteen of her immediate family members have experienced cancer. She was 29 years old at the time of her first diagnosis and experienced a recurrence just four years later. Rebecca has a 20-year career in mental health focusing initially on the assessment and treatment of mental illnesses. Read more.

Alison Petok, MSW, LCSW, MPH

Alison Petok is an oncology social worker; she received her Master in Social Work and Master in Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in oncology research and currently serves as a clinical social worker in the Department of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University. In her current role she serves as the palliative medicine social worker, provides clinical services to patients and families, mentors current MPH students, and manages biopsychosocial screening programs. Read more.

Cyndi Price

My goal is to help those who are diagnosed, having problems or just want someone to listen to them. Lung cancer is a horrible disease and treatment is hard, I know this. We are making goals, we are living longer and healthier. I am here to help, care and sometimes make you laugh. I am here living with stage 4 lung cancer with metastasis I am fighting and want you to join me. Read more.

Lora Rhodes

​Lora received her BS in psychology from Penn State University and MSW from Rutgers University. A social worker for over 25 years, she returned to clinical work in 2014 at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, where she began her career in oncology social work in 1996. In her current role she provides support services to patients from young adults to seniors. Read more.

Ashley Rickles

Intentional living began on October 19, 2017 when Ashley learned of her stage 4 non small cell lung cancer diagnosis. The diagnosis came as an incidental finding from a female problem. Her OB/GYN ordered a CT of the abdomen and that CT told a very compelling story for which nodules on the lower portion of her lungs were noted. Read more.

TK Sellman

TK Sellman, RPSGT CCSH is a career journalist (Columbia Chicago, ’90). She was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia in 2010, which inspired her to go back to school to become a sleep technologist in 2012 and a professional sleep educator in 2014. Read more.

Sandy Spears

Iʼm Sandy Spears, a life long resident of Georgia. In May 2019 I will celebrate my 40th wedding Anniversary. That is something I did not think I would see after a lung cancer diagnosis. November 2015 an x-ray revealed a large mass in lower left lung. Read more.

Julie Swedberg

In June of 2016, at the age of 41, Julie was diagnosed with Stage IV adenocarcinoma, with cancer in both lungs, lymph nodes and breast bone. Julie has undergone two major surgeries since her diagnosis. The first to remove a stubborn tumor in her right lower lobe with a VATS wedge resection, and most recently, a femur stabilization surgery, including curettage and cementing of a tumor in the left femur, followed by radiation. Julie is currently on her second line of treatment, Tagrisso, after 20 months on Tarceva. Read more.

Jennifer Toth

Jennifer Toth, a mom of 7 grown children, was working full time and part time as a freelance writer when Lung Cancer came knocking at the door in January 2014. Since that day she has had surgery to remove both left lung lobes, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. She is currently receiving Opdivo every two weeks to treat metastasis to her lymph nodes and right upper lung lobe. Read more.

Samantha Mixon Thompson

Samantha is 37 years old and currently lives on St. Simons Island, GA. After graduation from Georgia State University in 2002 with her Bachelors in Science with a concentration in Public Administration, she went on to become the HR Director for a subprime finance company on the outskirts of Atlanta. Towards the beginning of 2012, she began experiencing excruciating headaches and extreme fatigue. After many months of living like this, and not even a month after her 34th birthday, she was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer adenocarcinoma and tested positive for the EGFR mutation. Read more.

Christine Qiong Wu

Christine received her BSC degree in China and, MSV and PhD degrees in Canada all in Engineering. She worked as a professor in the Faculty of Engineering before she was diagnosed. She is thankful to her husband and three children who help her recovery and live her life to the full. Read more.

American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is leading the way in helping all Americans breathe easier. As the nation’s oldest voluntary health organization, we are America’s trusted source for lung health education, lung disease research, support, programs, services and advocacy. Since 1904, we have led the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air, whether it’s searching for cures to lung diseases, keeping kids off tobacco, or fighting for laws that protect the air we all breathe. Read more.

Former advocates

Kimberly Lester

​Kimberly Lester has been a lung cancer advocate ever since her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. In addition to volunteering with numerous lung cancer organizations, she and her mother founded the Dusty Joy Foundation (LiveLung), and recently co-authored The ABCs of Lung Cancer: for Patients and Advocates. Read more.

Don Stranathan

I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in June of 2009. Since my girlfriend Penny passed in 2014 from small cell lung cancer I have dedicated myself to advocating for lung cancer research and awareness. Read more.

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