The Fight for My Life:
Facing Advanced Lung Cancer

His non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis came as a shock, but he knew he couldn’t give up.

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John’s diagnosis came as a shock, but now he’s sharing what he’s learned so far while living with cancer to help and inspire others.

John Eagleton*, 63, has always been one to keep looking ahead.

“I was always busy, focused on pushing myself forward,” Eagleton says. Growing up, he enjoyed traveling, so during college he joined the U.S. Navy so he could see more of the world. As an adult, he started running for exercise, and soon completed a marathon.

His life seemed unstoppable — until something stopped Eagleton in his tracks.

When Everything Changed

“I used to run a lot, and so I was accustomed to pushing through aches and pains, but I developed a pain in my back that just wouldn’t go away and I began to feel more fatigued than usual,” says Eagleton. “I’ll never forget it. The doctor and I sat down to review the results of my MRI and were chatting. He suddenly fell silent after looking at the images more closely. That’s when I knew that something wasn’t right. My heart dropped.” After a biopsy and further testing, his diagnosis was advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that had spread to other parts of his body and tested positive for a biomarker called PD-L1.

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in both men and women, and NSCLC makes up the majority of lung cancer cases. It is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body.

“I was in shock,” Eagleton describes. “I felt sad, even defeated, and questioned everything. For the first time, I didn’t know how to move forward.”

In time, with the support of his family and the help of his doctor, Eagleton started making a plan and finding a way to fight.

“Being diagnosed with cancer has ultimately reinvigorated my perseverance and commitment to never giving up,” he says. “I hope that even just one other person can be helped from what I’ve learned so far.”

“I was in shock… For the first time, I didn’t know how to move forward.”

What He Learned:


Listen to your body.

Eagleton is grateful he listened to his body telling him to slow down and get checked out. “Even though my cancer wasn’t caught until it was advanced, I’m glad it was caught when it was, and I’m thankful I still had options,” Eagleton says.


Ask for help.

A cancer diagnosis can feel like a solitary life event, but it’s important to know there’s always support available. For Eagleton, much of it comes from his family, particularly his sister Marcia. Eagleton is also a proponent of therapy. “Professional support has made a huge difference in how I’ve been able to cope during my cancer journey,” he says. “Everyone is different, but no one should be afraid to ask for the help they need.”


Move forward with hope and a plan.

Eagleton describes feeling angry, scared and even in denial when he was diagnosed, but soon found himself at a crossroads. “I realized I needed to find a path to fight for my life,” he says. Eagleton and his care team worked closely to develop a plan of action that helped him feel more positive and hopeful.


Take it one small step at a time.

At first, Eagleton couldn’t process the news of his diagnosis. To help make facing cancer more manageable, he began to view it as a journey to take day-by-day. Now, he says he no longer worries about the things he can’t control, and instead focuses on what he can do.


You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’ve been put to the test.

“Receiving a cancer diagnosis can seem devastating, and it can make you feel a certain way that is hard to describe to someone who has not experienced that moment. My advice to others who are just starting their cancer journey is to believe in yourself and your ability to live with strength and grace you might not even realize you have,” he says.

As they discussed treatment options, Eagleton’s oncologist found he was a candidate for Opdivo® (nivolumab) + Yervoy® (ipilimumab), a combination of two immunotherapies for adults with advanced stage NSCLC that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic), tests positive for PD-L1 and does not have an abnormal EGFR or ALK gene.

Understanding Opdivo® (nivolumab)
+ Yervoy® (ipilimumab)

Opdivo and Yervoy can cause problems that can sometimes become serious or life-threatening and can lead to death. Serious side effects may include lung problems; intestinal problems; liver problems; hormone gland problems; kidney problems; skin problems; eye problems; problems in other organs and tissues; severe infusion reactions; and complications of stem cell transplant, including graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic). Call or see your healthcare provider right away for any new or worsening signs or symptoms.

Opdivo + Yervoy is a chemotherapy-free combination of two immunotherapies that work with your immune system in different ways to help fight cancer. Yervoy may stimulate the kind of cells that help fight cancer, while Opdivo may help these cells find and fight the cancer cells again. While doing so, Opdivo and Yervoy can also affect healthy cells. These problems can sometimes become serious or life threatening and can lead to death. These problems may happen anytime during treatment or even after treatment has ended. You may have more than one of these problems at the same time. Some of these problems may happen more often when Opdivo is used in combination with Yervoy.

Opdivo + Yervoy was studied in a clinical trial and compared to platinum-based chemotherapy among certain patients with previously untreated, advanced NSCLC that tested positive for PD-L1. In the trial, 396 patients received Opdivo + Yervoy and 397 patients received platinum-based chemotherapy.

In the trial, patients who were treated with Opdivo + Yervoy lived longer than those treated with platinum-based chemotherapy, and the combination was found to reduce the risk of dying by 21%. Half the patients in the trial receiving Opdivo + Yervoy were alive at 17.1 months, while half of the patients receiving platinum-based chemotherapy were alive at 14.9 months. At three years, one-third of patients treated with Opdivo + Yervoy were still alive and 22% of those who had received platinum-based chemotherapy were still alive. The three-year follow-up analysis was not designed to show a difference between Opdivo + Yervoy and platinum-based chemotherapy.

The most common side effects of Opdivo, when used in combination with Yervoy, include: feeling tired; diarrhea; rash; itching; nausea; pain in muscles, bones, and joints; fever; cough; decreased appetite; vomiting; stomach-area (abdominal) pain; shortness of breath; upper respiratory tract infection; headache; low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism); decreased weight; and dizziness. Please see Important Facts about side effects for Opdivo and Yervoy below.

One Day at a Time

After beginning treatment with Opdivo + Yervoy, Eagleton began to respond to treatment, and now he’s focused on looking forward and continuing to take things as they come.

“My message is one of hope, and I consider myself lucky because look at me — here I am doing many of the things I love, even if it’s sometimes at a more relaxed pace,” Eagleton explains. “Both my parents and my time in the Navy instilled in me a drive to never give up and always try to keep going, no matter what, and that’s what I plan to do.”

Opdivo + Yervoy will not work for everyone, and individual results may vary.

To learn more, please visit

*John Eagleton is a Bristol Myers Squibb Patient Ambassador

“Both my parents and my time in the Navy instilled in me a drive to never give up and always try to keep going, no matter what, and that’s what I plan to do.”