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.
Because of persistent pain in her ribs and other body changes, Rachael received a diagnostic breast MRI. Test results revealed stage 4 lung cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes and brain. After completing stereotactic brain radiation and starting a targeted therapy designed for the mutations within her Lung Cancer, Rachael had partial lung and lymph node surgery. Rachael was declared NED (No Evidence of Disease). Despite the good news, Rachael still lives with the fear of not being able to raise her young daughter and be part of her life. She wants to be around to watch her daughter grow up. The fear of what’s next is real and nearly always on her mind as resistance to targeted therapy is almost inevitable.“We have to do something about lung cancer. It’s the leading cause of cancer death and there is not enough funding going to research to change outcomes.” Rachael said. Originally, Rachael’s doctors told her there was likely no identifiable cause for her lung cancer. Knowing that unhealthy levels of radon can cause lung cancer and radon is found in two of five homes in Minnesota, Rachael and her husband had their home tested. It tested high showing unsafe radon levels, so they immediately installed a radon mitigation system. Rachael feels that her lung cancer diagnosis is probably a result of radon exposure. Three of Rachael’s neighbors followed the Malmberg’s lead and had their homes tested for radon. All of these home owners found unsafe levels of radon and were forced to mitigate. Rachael has become a staunch advocate for increased radon testing, mitigation and awareness of radon-related health risks. Rachael devotes time and considerable energy to fighting the lung cancer smoking stigma, educating people about the disease and working to increase research funding. She believes that the only way to change public perception is by spreading lung cancer awareness. “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve gone through. Knowing that my family supports me in this, I am willing to sacrifice my time to do this work. God gave me this journey for a reason. I feel like I’m being guided to advocate for others,” Rachael shared.