Samantha (Sam) Mixon 38, of St. Simons Island, Georgia, has always been passionate about life. First, there is her love of her 12-year-old daughter Karley. Then there were the years she played with the American Pool Association, and her commitment to her work as a general manager of a local hotel and restaurant. After her lung cancer diagnosis a few years ago she stopped work, and stopped playing pool, and dedicated her energies to her health.

Samantha’s diagnosis was quite a surprise to her, since – like many people with lung cancer — she never smoked tobacco in her life.

She was suffering from back and shoulder pain for years, but never thought much about it, thinking it was something innocuous like a pulled muscle. She could ignore it no longer, as the pain increased. In 2012 she visited her sister and parents for Thanksgiving, and the day she was scheduled to leave for home, she lost vision and started vomiting, so her mom immediately took her to the hospital, where an MRI revealed a brain tumor.

At first she was relatively unconcerned – after all, tumors run in her family and they always tended to be benign – but when she woke up after brain surgery, she saw the looks on the faces of her parents and doctor.

She immediately knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Samantha was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, specifically non-small cell adenocarcinoma with a positive EGFR mutation. She has been in treatment ever since, and thankfully her two remaining tumors have shrunk over the past five years and are currently inactive.

Samantha says having cancer has made her much more humble

She understands now that somebody’s outward appearance doesn’t necessarily track with what’s really happening on the inside. “Even with my partially collapsed lung I don’t really look as tired and worn down as I sometimes feel. So now I don’t judge people as harshly anymore, because you never know what people are going through on the inside.”

Her advice to people dealing with lung cancer themselves or in their families is to be sure to focus on rest and recovery. “When your body tells you it’s time to rest, you need to make sure your caregivers give you that necessary time to rest and recharge. Cancer takes a lot out of you.”

Sam remains passionate about her health – and healing.