Three-Time Cancer Survivor Stresses Staying Positive and Getting Checkups

March 22, 2016

ROYAL OAK, Mich. - Surviving cancer three times has given 77-year-old Royal Oak accountant Nancy Copeland a profound appreciation for life. Her journey began a decade ago after a chest x-ray detected a spot on her left lung. Copeland was diagnosed with stage II lung cancer, and 45 years of smoking was the suspected culprit.

She quit smoking and underwent surgery and chemotherapy, thinking she beat the disease. Three years later, she was diagnosed with recurrent cancer in her abdomen and brain and underwent radiation therapy. Thinking that would be the end, Copeland was shocked to learn she had cancer in her right lung next. She knew the drill; radiation again.

She now gets regular screenings for lung cancer, and in February of this year, she was diagnosed with lung cancer for the fourth time. This time, it was stage I, a much more treatable stage. But she still kept a positive attitude.

“As long as they say the cancer be treated, my attitude has been let’s get it done,” Copeland says. “I feel like I’m in charge of my treatment decisions. My biggest fear find something that can’t be treated. So far, it’s always been treatable. Dr. Kestin and the rest of my doctors have been positive, so that’s helped me stay positive. He’s always been on my team.”

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women; about 1 out of 4 cancer deaths are from lung cancer. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

“Lung cancer can be a deadly disease, but for those at high risk of the disease, regular screenings with CT scans can help find the cancer early, leading to better outcomes,” says Larry Kestin, M.D., a Board Certified Radiation Oncologist with 21st Century Oncology and one of Copeland’s doctors. “Advances in radiation therapy have led to highly effective treatment options for lung cancer patients, even when surgery is not an option.”

One of the advancements Dr. Kestin refers to is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). It is a radiation therapy treatment that combines 3D imaging with multiple, highly-focused x-rays beamed at the tumor from many different angles. SBRT is particularly effective against small, well-defined tumors in inoperable or surgically risky locations such as the lung. This technology combines a high degree of accuracy with very high doses of radiation to precisely target the tumor while increasing the sparing of surrounding, healthy tissue.

Copeland says cancer hasn’t interrupted her life. She is still going to work every day and praises her doctors for keeping her spirits up.

“I don’t see cancer as a death sentence, but a little inconvenience. The word is scary, yes, but it’s important find a doctor that you like to be on your team,” Copeland advises. “And it’s important to get a physical every year. I would recommend quitting smoking, but I never did until the cancer diagnosis. It’s a decision you have to make on your own.”

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About 21st Century Oncology

21st Century Oncology is the largest global provider of Integrated Cancer Care services that strongly believes in fighting for patients like an army and caring for them like a family. Operating as one dream team in the crusade against cancer, the company employs or is affiliated with nearly 1,000 physicians globally to deliver the most advanced, integrated, and compassionate cancer care in personal and convenient settings. Headquartered in Fort Myers, FL, 21st Century Oncology operates 165 treatment centers, including 129 centers located in 15 U.S. states. In addition, the company operates 36 centers located in eight countries in Latin America. For more information, please visit


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