Meet Susan

SusanWMy name is Susan Warmerdam and, in February 2012, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.  Since I had never smoked a day in my life, this came as a complete shock.  In my mind, lung cancer was a smokers’ disease (I lost my father, a former smoker, to lung cancer in 1999).  But my lung cancer, which spread to my adrenal gland, and to the lymph nodes in my chest and abdomen, is EGFR gene mutation-positive, something completely beyond my control and completely unrelated to smoking.

My doctor said I’d had it in my body for 5-7 years!  A chest x-ray for just a common cough was what exposed the mass in my lung.

The news that I had inoperable and, according to the medical community, an incurable cancer (that will kill 160,340 people this year – more than breast, kidney, colon and prostate cancers combined!), was beyond devastating.

But once I got past the initial shock and depression, I decided I was going to be the miracle patient. I vowed to do everything within my control to fight for my life.  I did extensive research in both western medicine and holistic practices.  I selected an oncologist and began treatment at Northwestern with a daily oral targeted cancer treatment drug and volunteered to participate in an early Phase II clinical trial.  I renewed my faith.  I took steps to make my home a healthy environment and to limit my exposure to unnecessary radiation.  I’ve completely changed my diet, eliminating sugar, meats and dairy, and moved to a primarily plant-based diet with an occasional fish protein.

Having taken every step to embrace wellness and believing that I was receiving the best medical care, I started to look at the bigger picture… how could I fight lung cancer on a larger scale?  Besides pursuing treatment just for myself, I wanted to prevent this horrible disease from affecting others, too.  For a long time, I kept my diagnosis private to maintain the normalcy in my life, but I’ve sacrificed all that for the sake of creating awareness.  I realized the impact I was having on people as I told my story – each became one less person falsely believing that lung cancer is just a smoker’s disease, and one more person caring about and wanting to support the cause.  As of November 2012, I’ve raised $40,000 for ALA’s lung cancer research, to help find that next drug/treatment that I will inevitably need to keep my, and so many others’, cancer at bay.

I am the (new) face of lung cancer… healthy, strong and a never-smoker. Lung cancer is vastly underfunded because of the stigma that it’s still just a smoker’s disease. But 1 in 5 people diagnosed have never smoked a day in their life.  It is up to all of us to be sure lung cancer gets the funding it needs and deserves to find the cause, early detection and treatment for this horrible disease… because anyone can get lung cancer.

Click here to donate to the Team Susan Research Award, Dedicated to Lung Cancer Affecting those who have Never Smoked.

To share your story, email April Bailey.