Finding Strength Four Years After My Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Marilyn Chapman shares her story for Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Photo of Marilyn Chapman

Courtesy of Marilyn Chapman

Meet the Author

Marilyn Chapman is a lung cancer patient at McDowell Cancer Center. November 2021 marks her fourth year since being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

I never suspected I had lung cancer before I was diagnosed. Four years ago, I went in to have an ultrasound for an issue with my liver enzymes when doctors discovered I had fluid around my lung.

I was then sent to see a pulmonologist. He told me that he feared I might have lung cancer and sent me for a series of tests. Later, he called me at home to tell me that I had stage 4 lung cancer on my left lung.

I immediately cried when I heard the news. I had one pity party that lasted maybe 15 minutes, and then I was ready to fight. I knew I wasn’t going to give up. I told my family and my husband, “This will not take me down. I will be here. I’m not going anywhere.”

Learning My Treatment Options

The first step was meeting with an oncologist at McDowell Cancer Center, affiliated with Cleveland Clinic. She went over everything and asked me if I wanted to know how long I had, but I told her, “No, thank you.”

Because my cancer was in the lining of my lung, surgery wasn’t an option. She went over other options like chemotherapy, but then mentioned a newer drug called Keytruda, a type of immunotherapy. Based on my numbers, she suggested trying it. I trusted her and agreed to try it.

Marilyn Chapman

I knew I wasn’t going to give up.... I’m not going anywhere.

— Marilyn Chapman

When I went on Keytruda, my lung was totally collapsed. They couldn’t see the spot. They decided to drain the lung, and immediately after starting Keytruda, the spot started shrinking.

I wasn’t familiar with immunotherapy as a cancer treatment before that. But I wasn’t hesitant to try it, because I trusted my doctors and my faith.

Where I Stand Today

This month, in November 2021, I will have my 60th immunotherapy treatment. Unless it stops working, I’ll be on it for the rest of my life. I’m not technically in remission, but my treatment is working.

I’m very fortunate to have a strong support system in my family: my husband, children, and grandchildren. My husband is very protective and takes good care of me. Before COVID, he would go to some of my treatments with me. I have a niece who would also come with me, or occasionally my son.

Unfortunately now because of COVID, no one can come with me. But I have excellent nurses at Cleveland Clinic who take such good care of me. They help entertain me and make me laugh.

Marilyn Chapman

You have to keep your spirits up. Don’t let it get you down, because you know what? I’m not letting it get me down at all.

— Marilyn Chapman

I actually got COVID during the pandemic, which was concerning because I already had issues with my health and immune system from my cancer. It hit me pretty hard. I had fatigue and low oxygen. I had a pain on my right side, which was the opposite side of my cancer (left lung). It hurt to breathe. It hurt to cough.

I went to the emergency room and discovered that my lung was full of blood clots from COVID. I spent two days there on blood thinners, but I eventually recovered. So there are bumps in the road here and there!

Staying Positive

If you’re ever diagnosed with cancer—no matter what kind it is—don’t ever let your guard down. Don’t let it get you. Try your best to stay in great spirits. That’s what I told my doctor I was going to do from day one.

I’ve been married to my husband for 45 years. I’m not ready to go yet. You have to keep your spirits up. Don’t let it get you down, because you know what? I’m not letting it get me down at all.

A Word From Verywell

If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer and you are struggling with your diagnosis, there are support groups and resources available. Talking to others who are going through the same experience can be helpful and comforting.

The American Cancer Society and American Lung Association can help you find local or online chapters, and Verywell Health offers a list of lung cancer support groups and communities you can look into as well.