Young Woman Gets Surprise Lung Cancer Diagnosis During Pandemic; Strives to Help Others Find Support

Orlando resident Stephanie Malecki is a 38-year-old healthy woman who has two young daughters, so when she was diagnosed with lung cancer last March, it was a complete shock. On May 8, she is participating in the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk at SeaWorld to raise awareness about lung cancer, and to make sure that anyone else diagnosed with the disease gets the resources and support they need.

For nearly a year, Malecki had been short of breath, and was diagnosed with a cold, bronchitis and pneumonia. One morning in March 2020, she coughed up blood. This was the second time this had happened, so she went to the ER. They did a CT scan, which revealed a mass. 

“Through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I fought to receive care and the barrage of tests needed to figure out what exactly I was dealing with then on May 5, surgeons removed the lower lobe of my right lung. Pathology confirmed the mass was indeed a carcinoid tumor,” said Malecki.

She had the surgery done robotically, so by June she was hiking in Yellowstone with her family. Because they caught the lung cancer early, Malecki didn’t have to do chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Now she has a scan every six months.

“I was unbelievably lucky that I had symptoms and the ER did a CT scan. As a 37-year-old female with no history of smoking, smoke exposure, or other risk factors, I simply didn't fit what people consider the ‘typical’ lung cancer profile,” she said. “The disease is so misunderstood. I soon learned that there is a huge number of young women like me who have lung cancer.”

Shortly after she was diagnosed, Malecki began researching lung cancer online and found the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative. LUNG FORCE unites women and their loved ones across the country to stand together against lung cancer and for lung health.

“My background is in engineering. I am a data nerd, so I wanted to see the stats,” said Malecki. “LUNG FORCE was very positive. It had a ton of information and it was packaged in a way that gives you hope.” 

After LUNG FORCE helped her with information and resources about her disease, she decided to get involved. She signed up for the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk and joined the LUNG FORCE Cabinet. 

“I want to help. I want to raise funds and awareness so that people who are facing what I am facing know that they aren’t alone,” she said. “I wish I would have found LUNG FORCE sooner. LUNG FORCE provides critical support to people in the darkest moments of their lives.”

The LUNG FORCE Run/Walk is on May 8 at SeaWorld. Registration is $35 for adults and $25 for children. Participants will also receive discounted tickets for SeaWorld. For more information and to register, visit   

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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