Stage IV Lung Cancer: How it Changed Me

Stage IV lung Cancer

Stage IV Lung Cancer: How it changed me

I remember the year my husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. It was 2012. Dan and I were still newlyweds, enjoying a new life together. He’d adopted my 3 daughters 9 months earlier. We had gone on a mission trip to the Middle East. He was pastor of a small church. We had dreams of what our life together would look like. Then, just a couple days before our 3rd Anniversary, he felt a string of hardened enlarged lymph nodes, like marbles, above his left collarbone.

The moment I felt them, fear struck me. I was too late to call for an appointment so we would have to wait for the clinic to open the next day. In this age of instant answers, we spent the night on the internet, using Google to diagnose the problem.

While this isn’t a recommended course of action, Dr. Google was accurate. Everything we read said that what we described had a 90% likelihood of being stage IV lung cancer. We kept thinking that there was no way that that was true. It was one of the few times in my life that I experienced real denial. Dan had never smoked. He was healthy.

We knew that it really couldn’t be lung cancer when we read about how deadly the disease was. The mortality rates for stage IV lung cancer are heartbreaking. There is a 4% chance of surviving 5 years. God wouldn’t allow that. We were so in love. Our children were young—ages 8, 10, and 14.

Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate.

It doesn’t care that you love Jesus and your family. If it did, my husband and I would be living out our dreams together, not worrying about the next scan. It doesn’t care that you have a church to pastor. If it did, we wouldn’t have had to close ours when Dan became too ill to carry on and we couldn’t find anyone willing to take on a job that doesn’t pay. Lung cancer is like the devil. It comes to steal kill and destroy.

Stage IV Lung Cancer Broke My Heart

There is nothing worse than watching someone you love suffer. Dan has been on so many different kinds of treatment. Some of them worked. Some of them didn’t.  Each of them had a new set of side effects to get used to and manage.

I’m Stronger

I wouldn’t have guessed I had it in me to handle all of the difficulties our family has experienced as a result of Dan’s cancer. We often hear from people who wonder how we do it. There are two things I say about that. One is that no one can predict how they will respond to any crisis. You only know in the moment. As you experience trials, you discover hidden strengths, and perhaps, hidden weaknesses. Something as fierce as cancer burns and refines you, exposing those things that are shrouded in more comfortable circumstances.

My Faith is Bigger

I’ve had to learn to trust God for bigger things. I not only have to trust Him with my husband’s life but also for a future that the doctor’s say will be without him. God must be my all in all. He is able to guard our children’s hearts throughout this journey and beyond. God has been faithful and I know that He is Ever Faithful. You can trust Him too.


About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer, is available on


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