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!
Since being diagnosed in 2014, Katherine has exhausted three targeted therapies and is now on a combination of Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy. She receives treatment every 20 days and is left with little to no energy following each treatment. While the treatments have held the cancer at bay over the years, they have not eliminated it.
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 it from growing. She is a big proponent of research that leads to new treatments and knows funding must increase.
Katherine has been married for 20 years and is the mother of four. Her oldest is a junior in college and the youngest just started middle school. 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 constantly wonders if she will see her children graduate from high school and college. She is adamant when she says, “I want to be here a lot longer!”
Recovering from treatments has been hard on Katherine. Dealing with side-effects is difficult. She said, “There needs to be better therapies and options to help patients like me deal with this difficult process.”
Katherine’s hope is that lung cancer screening becomes part of everyone’s annual physicals. Bringing lung cancer screening to the masses is now her pet cause.
“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?”
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 17.8%. 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.