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Mother battling stage IV lung cancer speaks on importance of early testing, tenacious spirit

Gina Hollenbeck has never smoked nor has a family history of cancer, but was diagnosed with lung cancer, the number one cancer killer for both men and women.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — To her kids and family Gina Hollenbeck is superwoman. She’s a former nurse and triathlete. So when a doctor diagnosed her with stage IV lung cancer, their world seemed to screech to a halt.

“Doctors weren’t really sure you know how long I would have to live,” said Hollenbeck. “I got some doctors saying I would only live 10 months other doctors saying you have 4 years to live. Well now it’s 6 years later and I’m still here.”

Still here and still competing in the race of life.

Getting the diagnosis wasn’t simple, Hollenbeck was misdiagnosed 4 times and said initially doctors dismissed her before it was confirmed she had lung cancer. But what was so surprising about the cancer was her health history. 

“I was 38 years old, I didn’t have a history of smoking I had no family history of cancer.”

Hollenbeck is currently in a clinical trial where she receives new treatments in Nashville. 

She’s also now giving back to help others and works with ALK Positive, an organization that funds cancer research.

“If there’s something persistent that’s going on and you feel like it’s wrong then advocate for yourself,” she said. “When it comes to lung cancer anyone with lungs can get lung cancer and that was something that even as a nurse I wasn’t aware of.”

The mother of two said it's her unshakeable foundation that is keeping her strong. 

“For me, it was my faith that kept me going. I had this hope that one, god truly loved me and two that his plan for me was better than my plan for me.”

Her diagnosis is giving her a new perspective.

“You put that expiration on me, I thought you know I have these young children, I’m a mother, I’m a nurse what am I going to do with these 10 months? The truth is I just thought I better live.”

Live and get to the finish line with no regrets.

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