Katherine Bensen was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer December 31, 2014. Her lung cancer was found after she reluctantly went to the doctor with a persistent cough. As a healthy and active, non-smoker, the thought of cancer never occurred to her. Tests revealed that Katherine had tumors throughout her lungs and in her lymph nodes, chest and spine. She was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer before she knew what hit her!
She is a big proponent of research that leads to new treatments and knows funding must increase. Since being diagnosed in 2014, Katherine has exhausted eight therapies and is now on her ninth line of treatment – a combination of Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy called Impower 150. While her past treatments have held the cancer at bay over the years, she has recently experienced some progression. The nodules in her lungs have increased. The cancer has also spread to her shoulder, more vertebrae and pubic bones.
Right now, Katherine says her options are limited. She is hopeful that one day in the near future she will receive the treatment that will cure her and in the meantime, she will do everything she can to keep the cancer from growing.
“I want to be here a lot longer!”
Katherine has been married for 20 years and is the mother of four. Katherine’s husband has been her rock. She appreciates how much he takes care of her and their kids, supporting them with everything they need to cope with her cancer.
Katherine’s hope is that lung cancer screening becomes part of everyone’s annual physicals. Katherine points out that lung cancer is often asymptomatic meaning by the time symptoms appear, it is usually at the advanced stage of the disease. The overall five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with lung cancer is 19%. If everyone was screened regularly, the chances of diagnosing lung cancer at earlier stages (when it is easier to beat) will improve and survivor numbers will grow.
“They just aren’t looking for lung cancer in young, healthy people, yet we are the growing demographic of lung cancer. There shouldn’t be restrictions on screening,” Katherine said. “Early detection increases a person’s ability to beat lung cancer. More than 70% of lung cancer patients are diagnosed in stages 3 or 4. Why aren’t we screening more?”