Little is known about the experience of surviving lung cancer because of its low survival rate. However, 14% of the people with a diagnosis of lung cancer become long-term survivors. This study describes the experience of surviving lung cancer as told by a subsample of survivors from a larger quantitative investigation of the quality of life among long-term survivors of lung cancer. The Center for Epidemiologic Survey Depression (CES-D) scale was used to evaluate distressed mood. The Short-Form 36 was used to evaluate quality of life. Handheld spirometry was used to evaluate pulmonary function abnormalities. Interviews were conducted with 29 participants. Qualitative analysis showed that survivors express positive and negative aspects differentially when divided into those with distressed mood (CES-D > or = 16; n = 9) and those not distressed (CES-D < 16; n = 20). Those in the not distressed group talked of their experience in more positive terms around the five central themes than those in the distressed mood group. The central themes that emerged were existential issues, health and self-care, physical ability, adjustment, and support. Subscale scores from the SF-36 were used to enhance the experience description. The results of this study highlight the importance of attending to both the physical and emotional needs of lung cancer survivors.