Life Is What You Make It

Yovana Portillo

My lung cancer was discovered by accident. In April 2016, I was in a car accident which landed me in the emergency room. I had scans to check for internal injuries. They didn’t find any broken bones but they did discover a mass in my lung. The E.R. doctor advised me to see my primary care provider for a follow up. My PCP referred me to a pulmonologist but since the mass was located behind my heart, there was nothing she could do. The pulmonologist requested a PET scan and referred me to a thoracic surgeon. I had a CT-guided biopsy, which revealed that the mass was made up of cancerous cells. I was diagnosed with stage 1B mucinous adenocarcinoma. I was surprised by my diagnosis, because at that time I was a healthy, active 35-year-old.

That July, I had surgery to remove the lower lobe of my left lung. I didn’t realize the toll that surgery would take on my body. I thought I’d be back at work right away, but I had to learn to be kind to my body and give it time to heal. Two weeks after my surgery, I realized that I needed some extra support. I wanted to connect with others who understood what I was going through mentally, physically, and emotionally. I did internet research and it led me to the Cancer Support Community (CSC) of Arizona. I started attending their monthly support group meetings. I’ve been able to share my own story and feel comfortable in my own skin. And I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many CSC events and activities.

Yovana's WalkersDuring one of my support group meetings, someone mentioned the Breathe Deep Phoenix walk. After participating in the walk that fall with my team, Yovana’s Walkers, I joined the planning committee. Little by little, my involvement with LUNGevity has grown. I attended my first HOPE Summit this past spring, and I’m even training to run my first marathon with Team LUNGevity this fall! I started running in 2014, before I was diagnosed. I always thought, “One day I’ll do a marathon,” so to be able to do my first marathon as part of Team LUNGevity is inspiring and exciting.  As a lung cancer survivor running a marathon, I hope to inspire others to see that when there is a will, there's a way, and anything you dream of is achievable!

It’s very important to me to raise awareness and fund research. Through LUNGevity, CSC, and social media, I have made a lot of friends who were diagnosed at a later stage, which is very common among lung cancer patients. They’re still in active treatment and clinical trials. We need future funding for research so that this disease can be manageable and come to a point where it’s just a chronic illness, not a death sentence.

If I could give any advice or words of wisdom to a newly diagnosed patient, I would tell them that life is what you make out of it. I would say take it easy on yourself. I think sometimes we’re our own worst critic. There is definitely hope that you will be able to get to your normal life after this diagnosis. It might be a new normal, and that’s ok because you’ll still be around to enjoy it. Survivorship is being able to continue living your life regardless of any diagnosis, whether that be lung cancer or any other disease or illness. As long as you’re pursuing a life in whatever capacity you’re able to, that is survivorship to me. Everyone is different and everyone’s body handles things differently. You know you. As long as you’re striving to live your idea or vision of a happy life then you’re a survivor.

If you would like more information on LUNGevity's Survivorship Conferences or if you would like to run with Team LUNGevity, please email

Blog category: 
Awareness & advocacy
Healthy living
Living with lung cancer
Young adults


Look forward to any updates!

Thank you

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