Two men and one woman of varying body shapes stand in front of mirrors; houseplants are in the background.

What Does Typical Look Like?

Why do people assume that a lung cancer patient is to look a certain way? Have you encountered the, well you don’t look like you have lung cancer? I’m sure you have, we all have.

My first Summit

I was going to Washington, DC for my first lung cancer conference and was, well a bit nervous. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like. I too thought lung cancer looked different. Everyone was going to be barely walking and pulling that dreadful oxygen tank that feels like it weighs 100 lbs., that’s the way it felt when I was lugging it around. Boy was I wrong. I was surprised to see how healthy so many of us looked. I was very pleasantly surprised. What an awesome encouragement it was. I still look in the mirror and I don’t see lung cancer. I know I have a disease but you don’t see it on the outside. I continue to educate myself.

One size does not fit all

Lung cancer comes in all sizes. One size does not fit all. Some have continued to live pretty normal lives. Still able to work full-time jobs. Some are still biking, hiking, and doing strenuous exercises. Some not as active as others but still look so healthy. It definitely has completely different effects on each person as an individual.

It doesn’t matter if you smoke, used to be a smoker, or are a never smoker. You cannot look at someone and say, “There is a typical lung cancer person”. Lung cancer doesn’t have a look. Like all cancers, the person with the cancer looks as normal as someone without cancer the majority of the time.

An encounter with an old friend

I was shopping one day and ran into my past work-out coach and fitness trainer. We were talking and she had seen me about a year or so prior while I was on 24/7 oxygen. She starts off by, “Hey girl the last time I saw you wasn’t you sick?” Yes, I was, as a matter of fact, I still am. I have stage IV lung cancer. She begins to apologize and tell me how sorry she is and then the same song we all hear, "You don’t look like you have lung cancer, you don’t look sick. Boy, you sure look good. don’t smoke." I, of course, take this opportunity to tell the facts of lung cancer.

What does "typical" really look like?

I’ve seen people use the term I’m not a typical lung cancer patient because I’m a “never smoker”. I feel that adds to the stigma that we are so desperately trying to stop. It doesn’t matter. Please understand it doesn’t matter if you did or did not smoke. It doesn’t matter if you still do smoke. We are now in this group together. We all have lung cancer and it is up to us to educate the world and let the world know that we, all of us are fighting a very tough fight.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.