Kentucky woman Renata Clifford was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015 and was told that her five-year survival rate was only 18%. Almost five years later, the Lyon County woman is participating in the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE Run/Walk to raise awareness and provide hope for those living with lung cancer.
In 2015, Clifford developed a cough that she thought was allergies. She visited her doctor, who ordered an x-ray and told her it was likely walking pneumonia, The x-ray revealed a mass, so they recommended a CT scan the next day. Following the CT scan, Clifford received a call from the doctor who told her to go to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.
“They thought it was a blood clot. They did more tests and the doctor told me it was cancer,” said Clifford. “My father died of lung cancer at 47 years old and I was always worried it would happen to me at the same age. To hear them say that was difficult. I was too young for this.”
At age 50, Clifford was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. She immediately began treatment. She had 33 rounds of radiation and 17 rounds of chemotherapy, all while working full time. The treatment shrunk the lung cancer, but she continued to get scanned every three months.
Then in 2018, she was on a cross country road trip when her vision began to blur. She visited a doctor and they discovered lung cancer had spread to her brain. They treated it with a targeted therapy called stereotactic radiotherapy. A few months later, her cough returned, and tests revealed that the cancer was again growing in her lungs. Doctors performed a 10-hour surgery where they removed a portion of her lung. This was followed by more chemotherapy, as well as a steroid regimen.
“After they diagnosed the brain tumor it was determined I was Stage 4, and they told me I had a year to live. Then after the surgery in February 2019, they told me I had a year again, but I am still here,” she said.
Recently, Clifford moved to Eddyville to be closer to family. She signed up for the Louisville LUNG FORCE Walk to raise awareness about lung cancer, money for research and help fight the stigma surrounding lung cancer.
“The biggest reason I am participating in the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk is the misperception that lung cancer is only caused by smoking. Doctors said they felt my lung cancer was caused by environmental factors, as I didn’t have what they call ‘smokers lungs,’ ” said Clifford. “I just want people to know that lung cancer is not your fault. It has such a stigma and it makes me angry. I just wish lung cancer was more understood.”
This year, the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk has gone virtual due to COVID-19 concerns, so Clifford walked over the weekend with her son in Eddyville.
“I have been blessed. My family and friends have been so supportive,” she said. “I am not done yet. I will do whatever it takes to keep going. My family keeps me wanting to fight lung cancer and my grandkids keep me going.”
More information about the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk and registration is available at LUNGFORCE.org/Louisville.