DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS
Donald Stranathan

Photos and text used with permission of
Mr. Donald Stranathan.

I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer in June 2009 and, since my diagnosis, I have had numerous treatments of radiation and chemotherapy. I am one of the fortunate few because only 16.8 percent of those diagnosed at this stage ever reach the five-year survival mark. It has now been over six years since my diagnosis and I am stable today because of the targeted therapy Tarceva.

I first met Penny Blume on a lung cancer support community on Inspire. We turned to each other for emotional support to battle our cancers and fell in love. In September 2012 our story was shared on ABC News and Good Morning America. In the following weeks, it was shared and tweeted all over the world. Penny left this earth on January 21, 2014, after battling small cell lung cancer for 32 months.

My relationship with Penny and the media exposure from ABC News spurred my involvement in advocacy work for lung cancer. In May of 2013, Penny and I attended our first Lungevity Hope Summit in Washington DC. Shortly after, I was asked if I would be interested in serving as a consumer reviewer for the CDMRP Lung Cancer Research Program.

In the following months I received my first online applications. I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed, but received great support and guidance by senior peer reviewers and our scientific review officer. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the in-person meetings that year when Penny's health started to deteriorate and she required my full time care.

The following year (2014), I was able to participate in both the online applications and the in-person application review. It was a very inspiring experience working with top doctors and researchers in the lung cancer field. When I first arrived at the meetings, I felt a bit intimidated, but soon realized that the doctors and researchers were very interested in hearing about my journey and experiences with lung cancer.

My last promise to Penny was that I would continue to advocate for lung cancer research and awareness. My work as a consumer reviewer with CDMRP's Lung Cancer Research Program has allowed me to keep that promise.

Last updated Wednesday, January 27, 2016