From Fear Factor to the Heimlich Maneuver to My 13th Cancerversary, this Trip Had Everything

Friends and Family,

If you want to add more drama to your life, you just can’t beat lung cancer. It makes the old Disneyland Tower of Terror ride seem more like riding the teacups in comparison.


First, there was the new  cough. It started two months ago. Genevieve and I had endless discussions about it. Was it getting worse? Better? Is there something else it could be? When you are healthy, a cough like that might be annoying, but you do your best to ignore it and wait for it to go away. When you have cancer, a headache two days in a row makes you wonder if the cancer has spread to your brain. There is no random symptom too small to raise the question: “Does this mean my cancer is growing?”

When that symptom is in the same place as the cancer, well, it’s hard not to go there. As a result, Genevieve and I have been snapping at each other for weeks leading up to this latest CT scan, and our subsequent trip from Portland to San Diego to get the results. I was nearly certain we would find out that my extraordinary ride of four years and nine months without progression, on a drug that normally leads to progression within thirteen months, was over. The Fear Factor had taken over.

Fear Factor.jpg


I have been extraordinarily bad at knowing when my cancer is growing. I had no symptoms before I was diagnosed the first time, when it was Stage III. I had no symptoms five years later when I was diagnosed the second time, when it was Stage IV. The cancer has progressed twice since then, and I didn’t know it was happening either time. To confuse things even more, there have been many times when I thought it had grown, but I was wrong. I like to think I’m a good judge of character, but I have to admit that I’m a horrible judge of the character of my cancer.

This time, we thrilled that my cancer judgement was so bad! We got the results, and there has been no growth again! UN-FREAKING BELIEVABLE!

And to top it off, we just celebrated my thirteenth cancerversary! Not bad for a guy with Stage IV lung cancer, eh?


We were almost giddy as we sat down for lunch. But right after we started, Genevieve started gagging and choking. We stopped thinking about my survival over the coming months, and started thinking about Genevieve’s survival in the next few minutes. She could breathe just enough to ask me to do the Heimlich maneuver, which I did unsuccessfully. A small crowd gathered, including a man who had just passed his CPR certification. He thumped Genevieve on the back several times, which was also unsuccessful. While this man,  several others and I problem-solved, Genevieve continued to wheeze and gag. We were all terrified.

Heimlich Maneuver.jpg

It became clearer as time went on that, while Genevieve was still gagging, she was able to breathe… just enough. She thought it was a pill lodged in her throat. A good half-hour of continued gagging later, the pill dissolved enough for the episode to mostly pass.

Our celebration flipped on its head and instead reminded us of the fragility of life for everyone. It was also a vivid reminder of how much Genevieve means to me, and how grateful I am to have her. The thought of losing her terrified me, and made my concerns about my own CT scan seem trivial. It’s true what Genevieve tells me: It’s much harder when your partner’s life is at stake.

The end result could not be better. Genevieve is back to breathing normally, and there is still no end in sight to my extraordinary good fortune with my Tagrisso clinical trial. And to top it all off, we BOTH have a greater appreciation for each other.

All in all, that’s a pretty great trip, don’t you think? Now, we have four more months to think about it.

I hope all is well for you, too, my friend.



The Next Chapter... And I Can't Wait!

Friends and Family,

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! My book is soooo close to being released! I’VE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS FOR FIVE YEARS!

The last pre-release step is to Beta-test for typos, and this is where YOU can help if you like. If you are interested in getting the book before it is available to the general public, and willing to search the book for typos by March 16th, then you’re in. Just email me at, and I’ll send you a digital copy.

I will send you a digital copy of the book. Once I get your feedback and make any necessary adjustments, the book will be released. I’M HOPING TO RELEASE THE BOOK BY APRIL 3RD!

I’m ready to share a few things about the book. The first is the title, which you already know if you looked at the book cover designs on the tab at the top that says “The Book.” The title is Second Wind: Thriving With Cancer.

Thank you all for your votes and comments on which cover design you preferred. Based on your feedback, the cover design is being finalized over the next several days. I’m loving how it is turning out.

And now, I’ll tell you just a little about the content. Even if you have read every single blog entry over the last twelve years, this will be 95% new to you. The first taste is to show you what will be written on the back cover:


This is one of the most thoughtful and useful books I've read, and certainly a must-read for anyone in the health professions. Beyond that, it is an amazing book for any of us trying to live consciously on this planet… I loved reading this!!! I laughed out loud several times! 

~ Dawn Doutrich, Ph.D., RN, CNS Emeritus, Washington State University College of Nursing


Second Wind is emotionally gripping. There is a rare intimacy as Dann leads readers through his journey. The book is hard to put down. As a survivor I found myself saying, “I felt that too!”

~ Charlotte de Renne, Breast Cancer Survivor


Dann's heartfelt, sincere account of his cancer journey touched me deeply. His work is inspirational and positive! I’m buying one copy for me, one for a friend that was newly diagnosed with stage IV cancer, and one for my oncologist.

~ Ginny Hicks, Stage IV Lung Cancer Survivor and Advocate


"Don't you ever get tired of being so positive?" my niece blurted out one day.

The question shocked me, five years into my fight with lung cancer.  Was my enthusiasm about my remaining treatment options so disheartening that even someone as upbeat as Stephanie struggled to see the hope in my situation? Was the way I was thinking that foreign to how other people think?

Over the next year, I came to understand that having cancer had changed more than my body. It had changed how I think. I had grown.  Not in spite of cancer, but because of it. Now I treasure every new part of this adventure, as I have learned to not only survive with lung cancer, but to thrive with it.


About The Author

Dann Wonser is a twelve-year, Stage IV lung cancer survivor that is still in active treatment. He is a public speaker, member of national and local committees on lung cancer, and lobbies both state and federal congress for lung cancer issues.

Cancer taught Dann lessons he never comprehended in the twenty-five years that he worked in mental health. Now, his priorities and his focus are clear. He is happily married to an extraordinary woman, and his quality of life has never been better.


100% of the profits from this book will be donated to lung cancer organizations.