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Kathleen Larson

I am generally a private person, but if telling my story can bring one person to early detection, I will tell everyone. – Kathleen Larson

Kathleen Larson is living proof of the importance of early detection of lung cancer. Lung cancer is often falsely perceived as a “smokers’ cancer,” so as a non-smoker, getting diagnosed with lung cancer was shocking to Kathleen and her family. In 2001, a good friend working at a body scan facility offered her a scan. Kathleen agreed to have a scan “for fun.” The results were anything but.

 A spiral CT scan revealed a suspicious mass between the lobes of Kathleen’s left lung. Ten days later, Kathleen’s entire left lung was removed. Five years after that, during the now routine scans, another small tumor was found in her right lung. Fortunately, the new tumor was able to be removed using minimally invasive surgery. Although she now lives with less than one lung, the important thing is that she lives. She is able to continue to work in her career as a psychotherapist, travel, and enjoy time with her friends and family, including her husband, two daughters, her son-in-law, and, as of 2012, her first grandson. Without early detection, the outcome would likely have been very different. Kathleen had no symptoms and no risk factors. Like most people, she would not have received a scan until symptoms appeared. She aspires to give hope and awareness to smokers and non-smokers alike and to stress the importance of early, regular body scans. She has no doubt that her early scan saved her life.

For five years after her initial diagnosis, Kathleen knew no one else with lung cancer. Then she met Maria Enriquez and Mike Stevens at a UC San Diego Lung Cancer Symposium. The three of them, along with their families, participated in the LA Lung Cancer Walk in Manhattan Beach. Because San Diego had no lung cancer walk at that time, Kathleen, Maria, Mike and Mike’s wife, Sue, founded The San Diego Breath of Hope Lung Cancer Walk. The inaugural walk in 2009 had over 1,500 walkers and raised more than $250,000 for lung cancer research. The San Diego Breath of Hope Walk has taken place each year since then, furthering lung cancer education and research.

Kathleen Larson