Kristi’s cancer story began in March 2014 – only a few days after she celebrated her 49th birthday. She had previously seen a physician for complaints of a tightness in her chest that later developed into a tickling cough. After first being diagnosed with a chest wall strain, then treated for acid reflux and finally asthma, an x-ray and CT eventually confirmed stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma) which had spread from her lung to her lymph nodes, spine and hip.
The morning of September 8, 2017 started like any other for Wes Graves and his family. Wes had been experiencing a cough for nearly one year. After seeing numerous medical providers who initially believed his cough was due to allergies, Wes and his wife, Melissa were able to convince one of his providers to order a low-dose CT scan of his chest and lungs. The results showed abnormal tissue in his lungs and the next step was a biopsy.
In early March 2018, Tom came down with the flu. After three days of the aches and pains, he went to Urgent Care. The possibility of lung cancer never crossed his mind. But as it turns out, Tom, his wife Colleen and their three adult children see his bout with the flu as the first of many blessings on a journey that’s brought them closer to one another and God.
In May 2013, Bonnie Mueller was 48 years old and feeling good. She was running two to three miles each day to stay in shape. However, things started falling apart just weeks later. Bonnie noticed roving pains in her body and a persistent heaviness in her chest; she knew something was terribly wrong.
Sheila Kozar could hear noises when she breathed and knew this wasn’t normal. She decided to go to the doctor, but her symptoms were dismissed and nothing more was done. A while later, her husband was diagnosed with pneumonia. Sheila thought this might be what was ailing her as well, so she made an appointment and begged the doctor to listen to her. She was told that it was not the normal standard of care to have a chest-ray with her symptoms. Sheila insisted. The doctor called within a couple of hours of Sheila’s scan and told her they may have found cancer. After further testing, Sheila was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2010.
Shelly Engfer-Triebenbach was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at age 40. As a healthy, full-time music teacher and mother of two, to say she was caught off-guard would be an understatement. Shelly saw a doctor after she developed shortness of breath. She was mis-diagnosed with pneumonia, as is common for never-smokers.
Linda Machmeier was driving back to the Twin Cities after her physical when the phone rang. She answered and was shocked to hear, “Are you driving and is anyone with you? We would like you to return to discuss what we are very certain is lung cancer.”
During the fall of 2016, Tracy Banitt was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer as a healthy 45-year-old never-smoker. Tracy had been running all of his life and knew something was wrong when he developed back then chest pain during his runs. Multiple trips to doctors looking for answers finally ended with a CT scan that showed something was very wrong. The news of his cancer diagnosis was devastating to Tracy’s wife, three daughters and the family and friends that love him. A cancer diagnosis was not supposed to be part of the plan.
Rachael Malmberg, a never-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer when she was just 31 years old. As a former University of Minnesota and Team USA hockey standout, Rachael was young, physically fit and cancer was the furthest thing from her mind.
Michelle Gydesen’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998. A bout of Bell’s Palsy caused his face to droop, so Michelle was able to talk him into seeing a doctor. Since he was a smoker, the doctor did a chest x-ray. The X-ray showed cancer and soon after, her father had his bottom right lobe removed. Michelle remembers her dad being in a lot of pain.