Determined Survivor Makes Lung Cancer Awareness a Personal Priority

Written By:Amanda Dobbs

When Diane Legg, an active mom of 3 in her early 40s, felt a pain in her back after picking up her 1-year-old-son, she went to her doctor expecting to hear that she had pulled a muscle. When her doctor ordered a CT scan to rule out a pulmonary embolism, the results showed something she definitely wasn’t expecting: suspicious spots on her lungs.

“Everyone was saying that they doubted it was malignant,” says Legg. “I just didn’t think I had any risk factors. But in the back of my head, I thought: ‘Is this possible?’”

Just a few months earlier, Legg’s friend Susan had been diagnosed with lung cancer. When tests came back showing that the spots in Legg’s lungs were stage I non-small cell lung cancer, Legg understood that she, like her friend, would be facing the disease.

A ‘why not me’ moment

Legg began treatment, undergoing a lobectomy that removed the upper part of her left lung as well as chemotherapy. She was undergoing her second round of chemo when she received news that Susan, who had been diagnosed only 9 months earlier, had lost her life to the disease.

“When Susan died, I had a ‘why me?’ moment – or rather a ‘why not me?’ moment,” says Legg. “I kept asking myself, why did they find my cancer early and not hers? Why am I here and she’s not?”

Legg decided she would honor Susan’s memory by doing her best to increase awareness about lung cancer and to raise funds to help prevent and find better treatments for the disease.

A voice for lung cancer awareness

Early on in her cancer journey, Legg had taken part in her local Relay For Life® event in Amesbury, Massachusetts. “It was a good way to feel empowered, like I was ‘doing something,’” says Legg.

Since then, she has fought back against lung cancer by becoming a vocal advocate for lung cancer awareness, starting a vigil called “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” in Boston, and becoming a key leader for the New England region of a nationwide lung cancer non-profit as well as a leader for an organization she founded herself.

She has spoken out in favor of better awareness and funding in front of local legislators in Massachusetts and has traveled to Washington, D.C., to lend her energy to the fight against lung cancer at the national level.

“I felt that as long as I had this voice, I would not let Sue’s voice go unheard,” she says. “I carry the voices of so many people with me.”

Hope for the future

"There have been a lot of changes since I was first diagnosed. There are new screening protocols, there are new developments, and there are a lot of great people out there working in this field."

Diane Legg

Even as she has devoted her time to fighting against lung cancer on behalf of others, Legg has continued her own personal battle against the disease. Two years after her original diagnosis, her doctors found the cancer was now in both of her lungs.

Although her cancer is still present and more treatment may come in the future, Legg is now a 9-year lung cancer survivor – and she sees reasons to be hopeful. “There have been a lot of changes since I was first diagnosed. There are new screening protocols, there are new developments, and there are a lot of great people out there working in this field,” Legg says.

To others facing lung cancer today, she says this: “Don’t lose hope. Even though there’s not a cure, treatments have come a long way.”

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on American Cancer Society resources, we are no longer able to review new submissions for Stories of Hope.

American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.