Finding Happiness Despite Stage IV Lung Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 29, 2016


Joann (center) with her daughters, Mei and Lia.

Today’s post is written by Joann Totten, a patient at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

As a non-smoker, I never imagined I would be diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, let alone at age 50. But that’s what happened on Aug. 5, 2015, just six weeks after I started experiencing a non-productive cough. The doctors felt certain it was bronchitis, but as a radiation therapist for more than 20 years, I advocated for myself and insisted on a chest x-ray, which came back a bit abnormal. After additional testing for tuberculosis and pneumonia, I began experiencing shortness of breath and had another chest x-ray and CT scan. When I saw the scan, which was hard to believe was mine; I knew immediately I had cancer. A few days later, a biopsy confirmed my diagnosis: non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV.

Although it’s been more than a year, it’s still so hard to believe I have lung cancer. I never smoked, I exercise, and I eat very healthy; I thought I took pretty good care of myself. But cancer doesn’t discriminate; all you need are lungs to be diagnosed with this disease. Read More »

Can’t Catch Your Breath?

Posted by Blog Administrator May 14, 2012

female athlete with dyspnea

Some people experience shortness of breath almost daily and can’t seem to figure out why.

It’s a feeling we’ve all had while running to catch the train or bus, pushing too hard at the gym, or suffering from a bad chest cold. But, some people experience shortness of breath almost daily and can’t seem to figure out why.

Occasional dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is common and often is the result of overexertion or a temporary respiratory infection, but chronic (or recurring) dyspnea can greatly affect quality of life and limit participation in activities that many people enjoy.

Because chronic dyspnea can be attributed to a wide range of conditions, from asthma to heart failure, its cause can be difficult to pinpoint, explains Dr. Aaron Waxman, a pulmonologist and director of the Dyspnea Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“If someone is regularly experiencing shortness of breath after exercise, or continues to have shortness of breath after treatment, an evaluation with a specialist who has expertise in dyspnea and its underlying causes is warranted,” says Dr. Waxman.

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