My Lucky Break!

Dann (center) at Lung Love Run/Walk Portland.

By Dann Wonser

Eleven years ago, in 2006, I got the luckiest “break” of my life: I broke my ribs.

While that may not seem all that lucky, those broken ribs led to an X-Ray, which led to the discovery of the spot on my lungs that was later diagnosed as Stage III lung cancer.

Lucky me! Because of broken ribs, we caught the cancer early enough for the surgery to remove one of the lobes of my lungs that along with chemo treatments saved my life!

My wife Genevieve and I became grateful for every single day that I stayed alive. And I was not just staying alive – I remained cancer free for almost five years!

That wasn’t my only “lucky break,” however. In 2011, the cancer returned and this time it was Stage IV, and the chemo didn’t even put a dent in it. Luckily, the world of treatment was evolving just when I needed it. I was able to take Avastin, a new chemo maintenance drug, which kept the cancer from growing for a year and a half. Next, I was on another treatment that didn’t exist the first time I went through cancer: A targeted therapy for my EGFR mutation called Tarceva. Another year and a half of successful treatment! When that stopped working, I got into a clinical trial for another new targeted therapy, this time for my T790M mutation: A medication now known as Tagrisso. Thirty-two months later, I’m still having no signs of progression. Yeah!

How lucky can one guy be? I’ve been on three treatments that didn’t even exist the first time I had cancer, which have given me another six years of life. And I’m not done yet!

With all of these “lucky breaks,” I decided that I wanted to take advantage of this gift of life, and make a contribution for the benefit of other survivors in any way that I could. I started a blog (www.dannwonser.com). I began (gulp) public speaking, something I hadn’t done for about forty years, and I began writing a book. And along the way, I found Lung Cancer Alliance.

Here was something I could get actively involved with in different ways. I signed up for Lung Love Run/Walk Portland, which I could do in my own community. As a giant bonus, I met a couple of other survivors who have become friends. I started my own team, Live Lung and Prosper, and invited family and friends to join me. It was important for me to raise awareness, and funds for lung cancer research.

That walk was just the beginning, however. My exposure to Lung Cancer Alliance got me interested in their annual National Advocacy Summit, which involved a trip to Capitol Hill with other survivors and advocates. I got to meet with members of Congress to help them understand how they could further lung cancer awareness and research. Being part of democracy in action got me pumped!

That excitement has made being involved in this year’s Lung Love Run/Walk even more meaningful for me. I understood more of the mission first-hand. This year, Live Lung and Prosper will return, hopefully with even more family and friends by my side.

The first time I went through lung cancer, I had never met another lung cancer survivor, and didn’t know about any online resources. In fact, it was eight years after I was first diagnosed before I ever met anyone who could understand what I was going through first-hand. None of us have to be this isolated anymore! Come join the walk, feed off all that positive energy and meet others who have been through experiences like your own. And a real bonus for me: By starting my own team, I felt tremendous support from the people who chose to join me or donate in my honor. And while so much of the time being a survivor means being on the receiving end of support, by joining the walk, you are making a difference for others.

 

Join Dann at Lung Love Run/Walk Portland in Laurelhurst Park, Portland Oregon on Saturday, June 24th. Learn more!

Click here for more information on the National Advocacy Summit taking place September 27-28, 2017 in Washington, DC.