LONE TREE, Colo. (KDVR) — Joanie Ryan was crowned Ms. Colorado Senior America in October and she is already on a very important mission to raise awareness about lung cancer.

Wearing her crown and sash, she shared her personal story at a lung cancer survivors’ breakfast at Sky Ridge Medical Center on Wednesday.

“This certainly gives me the platform and the opportunity to share this message about lung cancer and the importance of screening,” Ryan said.

The 61-year-old from Aurora was diagnosed with stage 4 lung and neck cancer in 2018. She did not smoke and had no symptoms. But the cancer was detected during a routine breast MRI.

Ryan started an aggressive treatment program and ended up with severe gastrointestinal complications that lasted for almost two years.

There were times she didn’t think she would make it. But Ryan fought hard and won on multiple levels.

“I felt like I climbed up a mountain by my fingertips and standing on stage having this crown on my head, I may cry, was the culmination of literally climbing up that mountain by my fingertips, and then I got to stand on top and be blessed with this opportunity,” Ryan said.

Now she’s excited to compete for the national title in Atlantic City, and she’s urging people in the high-risk category for lung cancer, including heavy smokers aged 50 to 80, to get screened.