Free to Breathe Survivor Spotlight – Jim Dennison

Cancer Hope Network is proud to partner with Free to Breathe to provide support for lung cancer patients and their caregivers. Each month, we feature a lung cancer survivor’s story. For more information about Free to Breathe, or to gain access to additional lung cancer survival resources, please visit

jim-dennison-August blogI was diagnosed with lung cancer in February of 2004. To this day I still don’t know what stage it was because my case wasn’t typical. It had actually taken multiple doctors three months to come to that diagnosis. My symptoms looked like lung cancer, but I had no tumors in the lung itself. My lung cancer was located near the joining of the lung and windpipe.  Once they found it, they told me I was a candidate for surgery.

Lung cancer wasn’t new to me. My father had died of the disease in 1987. Still, when it happens to you, it’s a shock. I know it will sound stupid, but I watched Star Trek for 6 hours a day to help me relax and get over the stress of diagnosis and immediate surgery. After a few weeks I could talk about it and ask questions. Lots of questions! I was one of the lucky patients who only had three rounds of chemotherapy.

I did my best to maintain a hopeful attitude through it all by staying connected with those who mean the most to me. My entire family has been instrumental in supporting me with anything related to my lung cancer. My younger brother drove me to all my appointments even though he lived an hour or so away from me. My sister and older brother were always calling to check in and my ex-wife and coworkers were a huge help in helping me maintain a healthy attitude.

My wife has put up with all the ups and downs associated with ongoing care and the emotional strain that goes along with it. She has stepped up to stand for the cause with me, helping me with Free to Breathe events. I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support I have received. It really does help when things get tough.

After being cancer-free for 5 years I was not allowed any more CT scans for fear of the radiation causing new cancer. I had been used to the reassurance I got from the 6 month CT scans, so when they stopped I found myself worrying about the unknown. I knew I needed to channel my worries into something productive.

I looked around the internet and joined a few discussion groups, but they were too negative and self defeating for me. I just happened to stumble across the National Lung Cancer Partnership, now called Free To Breathe, and I found a group of people who were excited about helping people with lung cancer and had a great positive attitude towards that goal.

After seeing that the closest Free to Breathe event was in Philadelphia, I volunteered to put on an event in New Jersey. It has been an amazing gift to me as I have meet so many new people who have gone through the challenge of a diagnosis and others who have suffered a loss. One of the great things about these events is it shows we are all in this together.

Even to this day, my main challenge is attitude. I sometimes stop and think of my surgery and it sends chills up my spine. I sometimes worry about a re-occurrence.  But, I catch myself and direct that misguided energy to something positive. I always try to stay in the day.

To newly diagnosed patients, my advice to you is to stay positive and fight. Learn all you can about your disease and what treatments are available to you. Discuss EVERYTHING with your doctor. Keep moving yourself in the right direction and don’t ever lose hope.