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 Impower150. While past treatments have been effective for a period of time, cancer is smart and she has recently experienced some progression. The nodules in her lungs have increased and the cancer has also spread to her shoulder, more vertebrae, pubic bone and skull.
Right now 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, research is keeping Katherine alive.
“I want to be here a lot longer!”
Katherine has been married for 21 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?”