Lung Cancer Awareness Month

The White Ribbon Project Stories

Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.

The White Ribbon Project serves to amplify that simple but powerful message to the world.

The grassroots organization is powered by lung cancer patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, researchers – anyone who wants to help raise lung cancer awareness. The group creates and distributes wooden white ribbons as a symbol of its powerful movement to shift the narrative on lung cancer and break stigmas.

The Patient Story is proud to share stories of some of these incredible people. From stage 1 to stage 4, those with and without histories of smoking, to caregivers and doctors, their mission is clear: Let’s lead with love and change the lung cancer story.

Here are their stories.

Spotlight Video

Heidi’s Story: The Community Builder


Diagnosed with 3A non-small cell lung cancer at just 55 years old, Heidi Nafman-Onda says she found little support in raising lung cancer awareness, so she decided to create that community herself. Hear more about what’s driving her to fight for not just her own life, but those everywhere impacted by lung cancer.

→ Check out Heidi’s Story

Michael’s Story: The Doctor (and His Fight for Early Screening)

Dr. Michael Gieske has worked for decades as a primary care physician in his northern Kentucky hometown, but his most recent passion: saving the lives of his neighbors with early lung cancer screening. Dr. Gieske talks about how others can catch lung cancer earlier.

→ Check out Dr. Gieske’s Story

Chris’ Story: The Team Player

Former NFL linebacker Chris Draft may’ve become a celebrity on the field, but the last 10 years, he’s become one of the most recognizable faces in lung cancer advocacy as the ultimate team player. Chris thrust himself into this space after losing his wife, Keasha, to stage 4 lung cancer a month after they were married. That was 10 years ago.

→ Read more on Chris’ story

Pierre’s Story: The Caregiver’s Fight

Pierre Onda spent decades as a doctor and met countless people who would end up with a lung cancer diagnosis. But it became extremely personal when his own wife, Heidi, was diagnosed with lung cancer. The retired primary care physician now spends his days fighting not just for his wife, but building empathy for everyone in the community.

→ Read Pierre’s story

Rhonda & Jeff’s Story: The Love Story

Jeff and Rhonda Meckstroth took a huge hit when Jeff, who had no history of smoking, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. That launched Rhonda into the role of passionate caregiver, fighting for his life. One of her biggest messages for others? The importance of biomarker testing – and how it’s helped their lives, more than once.

→ The Meckstroth’s Story

Bonnie’s Story: Breaking the Smoking Stigma

In her story, this incredible 3x lung cancer survivor shares some of her most vulnerable thoughts, especially as someone who has a smoking history. Bonnie also shares why she was so drawn to The White Ribbon Project which vocalizes an important message: Everyone deserves empathy and support in their cancer experience, regardless of smoking history.

→ Bonnie’s story here

Anne’s Story: The Ultimate Caregiver to Stage 4 Patient

Anne LaPorte spent decades as a nurse, but in 2008, she went from professional to personal caregiver when her dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Her world was shaken by cancer, again in 2017 when her daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma. Then as her daughter recovered, Anne was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, herself! Watch Anne’s incredible story, and her powerful message of why patient self-advocacy is critical, more now than ever.

→ Read Anne’s Story

Dave’s Story: Stage 1 & Fighting – For Others

Dave was grateful to have caught his lung cancer early. It was localized, stage 1, and after one surgery, he was in remission. But along with the relief was a feeling of survivor’s guilt. He wanted to fight for lung cancer advocacy , sharing about the importance of early screening and biomarker testing, but he questioned if he had a real seat at the table. That is, until he found The White Ribbon Project.

→ Dave’s Story


The White Ribbon Project

The Patient Story is happy to support The White Ribbon Project in its lung cancer awareness efforts. Learn more about what TWRP does and how you can get involved! You can request a white ribbon and even host a white ribbon build! Check them out here.


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More lung cancer stories

Non-small cell lung cancer

Yovana P., Non-Small Cell, Invasive Mucinous Adenocarcinoma (IMA), Stage 1B



Cancer details: Had no genetic mutations; IMAs comprise between 2-10% of all lung tumors
1st Symptoms:
No apparent symptoms
Treatment:
Lobectomy of the left lung

Dave B., Non-Small Cell, Neuroendocrine Tumor, Stage 1B



Cancer details: Neuroendocrine tumor
1st Symptoms: 2 bouts of severe pneumonia despite full health
Treatment: Lobectomy (surgery to remove lobe of lung)

Terri C., Non-Small Cell, KRAS+, Stage 3A



Cancer details: KRAS-positive, 3 recurrences → NED
1st Symptoms: Respiratory problems
Treatment: Chemo (Cisplatin & Alimta), surgery (lobectomy), chemo, microwave ablation, 15 rounds of SBRT radiation (twice)

Heidi N., Non-Small Cell, Stage 3A



Cancer details: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
1st Symptoms: None, unrelated chest CT scan revealed lung mass & enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes
Treatment: Chemoradiation

Tara S., Non-Small Cell, ALK+, Stage 4 (Metastatic)



Cancer details: ALK+ occurs in 1 out of 25 non-small cell lung cancer patients
1st Symptoms:
Numbness in face, left arm and leg
Treatment:
Targeted radiation, targeted therapy (Alectinib)

Lisa G., Non-Small Cell, ROS1+, Stage 4 (Metastatic)



Cancer Details: ROS1+ tends to be aggressive. It can spread to the brain and to the bones.
1st Symptoms: Persistent cough (months), coughing a little blood, high fever, night sweats
Treatment: Chemo (4 cycles), maintenance chemo (4 cycles)

Stephen H., Non-Small Cell, ALK+, Stage 4 (Metastatic)



Cancer details: ALK+ occurs in 1 out of 25 non-small cell lung cancer patients
1st Symptoms: Shortness of breath, jabbing pain while talking, wheezing at night
Treatment: Targeted therapy (alectinib), stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)

Ivy E., Non-Small Cell, EGFR+, Stage 4 (Metastatic)



Cancer details: EFGR-positive
1st Symptoms: Pain & stiffness in neck, pain in elbow
Treatment: Two targeted therapies (afatinib & osimertinib), lobectomy (surgery to remove lobe of lung)

Ashley R.
Diagnosis: Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
1st Symptoms: Tiny nodules in lungs
Treatment: Tagrisso (Osimertinib)
Small cell lung cancer

Montessa L., Small Cell Lung Cancer



Cancer details: Small cell lung cancer
1st Symptoms: Chest pain, lingering cough
Treatment: Chemotherapy (Cisplatin switched to carboplatin, etoposide), chest radiation, brain radiation (prophylactic)
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