By 40, Lindsay Wagner had dealt with her fair share of challenges, but her biggest challenge yet emerged at 41, when she was diagnosed with Stage 4b Adenocarcinoma Lung Cancer with ALK-positive mutation, metastatic to her brain, liver and bones. With the help of her friends, family and dogged determination, Wagner has defied expectations, recently celebrating over a year as a “cancer thriver” after initially being given only three months to live. Today, amid living her life to the fullest, the die-hard Atlanta Braves fan has dedicated her time to destigmatizing lung cancer and advocating for earlier, preventative screenings.
Why is it important for people to look past the stigma associated with lung cancer?
The truth is, anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. You can get it at any age, whether you have smoked or not. I was completely shocked when the doctors told me I had lung cancer. I never smoked a day in my life. Turns out, everyone has two copies of the ALK gene, and mine mutated. Once it did, it caused the cells to turn into cancer, which then spread throughout my body. My mission is to change the face of lung cancer. If you catch it early enough through screenings, you have a much higher rate of survival.
What has been essential to getting the care you need during your cancer journey?
It has been extremely important to advocate for myself with doctors. I have a rare form of lung cancer. Not many doctors are extremely familiar with how to treat me. That is why it is so important to spread awareness so that more research can be done for education and new treatment options.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I hope to run my own foundation to help cancer patients and their families in need of assistance. If my story can help just one person, then I have made a difference.
What important lesson have you learned as you’ve grown older?
The “big” things are really just the small things, and they aren’t all that important. You look back at the things you thought were huge at the time, but in hindsight, they were just momentary challenges and were gone and passed before we knew it.
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough” ~ Oprah Winfrey.