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How Ellen Chung beat lung cancer | National Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Ellen Chung, 80, stared the Grim Reaper in the eye six years ago — and defied him.
It was December 2002, and after three months of testing, Chung’s oncologist confirmed the worst. She had stage four lung cancer. She was told to get her affairs in order because she had nine months to live.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer is the deadliest of all types of cancers. It kills more patients than breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined.
“It was a great shock to me and my family,” Chung said. “I found it very difficult to accept... There’s so many things you haven’t accomplished yet. All of the sudden you think ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do? What is my family going to do without me?’”
Chung never suspected she might have lung cancer when she first went to the doctor with complaints of indigestion and chest pain. She had never been a smoker.
“It wasn’t even secondhand. There wasn’t anybody in my family who smoked,” she said.
Despite evidence to the contrary and a doctor’s word, Chung refused to believe her life would end within nine months.
“I never thought it. I didn’t believe it. I had trust in God that he would pull me through,” she said.
She sought treatment at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center, where in addition to traditional cancer treatments, doctors offer naturopathic, acupuncture and nutrition therapies. Chung started mild doses of chemotherapy and also began following the advice of a naturopathic physician, who recommended changes to her diet and supplemental vitamins.
Nine months came and went. Chung lived. In 2005, doctors announced that her cancer was in remission.
Chung believes she conquered her cancer because of God, a good medical team, the support of family and friends and her stubborn will to live.
“You have to have a strong desire to live,” she said. “My doctor called it her love of life.”
Life is a little bit different since her diagnosis, Chung said. She is more aware of her mortality and she finds time to pursue hobbies such as baking, gardening, sewing and reading.
“I just want to live each day appreciating each day I have, and appreciating my children and grandchildren,” she said, adding that she hopes her story will inspire other lung cancer patients to maintain hope.
“The statistics aren’t good for advanced lung cancer, but there is hope,” she said. “There’s just so many things out there now that can help them live longer.”
Fast facts on lung cancer
Lung cancer kills about 439 people a day.
More than 60 percent of new lung cancer cases were always nonsmokers or are former smokers, many of whom quit decades ago.
The majority of lung cancer patients are diagnosed so late that they will die within a year.
One in three cancer deaths are from lung cancer.
November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.