My name is Rachael Malmberg, I was diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma at the age of 31. I was a former collegiate and Olympic-level athlete who continued to live a healthy life. I am a professional woman working in ethics, compliance, and third party risk management while also caring for my six-year-old daughter. Cancer, yet alone lung cancer, never crossed my mind.
When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my daughter, cooking, gardening, riding bikes, running, and coaching her in her many sports. Over the past few years I have grown passionate about cancer advocacy, education, and awareness. I believe that I was given this disease for a reason and it is my job to continue to help others in any way possible.
As I reflect upon my journey with cancer, I would sum it up with the following quote: “You cannot control what God has chosen you for, however, you can control how you respond and what you do with your gifts.” I have continued to live the cancer journey the last two years through these words by meeting my diagnosis head on, advocating for myself and others, and ensuring I live my best life. As I think back to the initial diagnosis, I was in shock, I was angry, and I was sad all at the same time. I feared I would not be here for my daughter and I feared the pain others would feel going through this process with me. Starting out on my treatment path, I was determined to be the one percent of people who survive more than five years with lung cancer. I have had to overcome many obstacles along the way from side effects, financial burdens, family emotions, and changes of lifestyle. The hardest part about having cancer is wearing that big “C” daily. There isn’t a day that I can wake up and not worry about what’s next, what side effect is going to hit me today, what emotion I will have to fight, and, more importantly, the constant fear of new growth and medication failure. As I continue to fight daily, I believe I am lucky, I am loved, and I am making a difference one step at a time by showing others cancer does not have to be the end of your life, it can be a new beginning.
Throughout the past two years, I have worked with many advocacy organizations, the American Lung Association (ALA), A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation, Cancer Survivors Against Radon, Women Against Radon, American Cancer Society, and many more. Working with these organizations has not only been extremely rewarding, it has allowed me to learn about resources and support, as well as raise awareness for others who may be too sick at the current time to be in the public eye. Through my work with organizations, I have been able to tell my story and make a larger impact than if I were doing it alone, I have met many friends and survivors and learned of many who paved the way before me. Advocacy organizations are a great resource and support tool for cancer survivors.
The Lung Cancer Research Program (LCRP) has had a lasting impact on my survival. I learned about the LCRP when the ALA nominated me to be a consumer reviewer for them. The ALA believed I would be a great fit not only to contribute feedback from the perspective of a person living with lung cancer but also to take advantage of all there is for a patient to learn from the program. The nomination process was not only an honor, it was a fun process to go through. It helped me outline all the things I have done to raise awareness and in doing so it showed me what a difference I was making while also giving me purpose to continue surviving. When I was able to participate on the panel, the researchers and scientific community were incredibly supportive, knowledgeable, and, most importantly, passionate about lung cancer. I believe that the people who participated with me are leading the way in continuing to find a cure for my cancer while also keeping the patients’ needs at the forefront of their research. Words cannot express my appreciation for the effort and time these people put in for us as survivors as well as the meaning they place behind their work. I am extremely grateful for the scientists who choose to work on lung cancer because without them lung cancer will continue to be the deadliest cancer in men and women. I am proud to say that I too have joined this effort; I have recently switched professions and am now working with laboratories, hospitals, doctors, and support staff to identify cancer-related mutational burdens that can improve diagnosis, prognosis, and assignment of therapy.
If there is one piece of advice I could leave with others it would be that no fight is too big, God has given us all the strength, determination, and skills we need to overcome anything. Continue to believe in yourself, fight for your desires, and, more importantly, allow others to love and support you because cancer is a marathon not a sprint. You need others around you.
Last updated Thursday, September 10, 2020