Katherine Bensen, daughter of former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, died Tuesday following a five-year battle with lung cancer.
A non-smoker, Bensen was diagnosed with incurable stage 4 small-cell lung cancer in 2015.
"Her brave, kind and giving spirit will carry forward through her many loyal and supportive friends and family," an obituary said.
Nolan, DFL-Crosby, shared the news of his daughter's diagnosis shortly after winning reelection to Minnesota's 8th District in 2014. Nolan later retired from politics at the end of 2018, following his sixth term in Congress.
“My prayers are with the entire Nolan family," Jeff Anderson, Nolan's former aide in Duluth, said. "Katherine and her family were such fighters through her battle with cancer. Her work in recent years advocating for the lung cancer community was inspiring and has positively impacted many lives here in Minnesota and across the nation.”
Bensen lived in Roseville, Minnesota, and was a married mother to four children. Following her diagnosis, she became a strong advocate for cancer research.
"In order to continue her fight for better screening, diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately a cure for lung cancer, she has donated her body to the Mayo Clinic," an obituary said. "Over the past five-and-a-half years since her diagnosis, Katherine became a nationally known advocate for the lung cancer community. On Capitol Hill, and far and wide, she sought to spread hope, remove old stigmas about lung cancer, and advocate for early screenings because 'anyone with lungs can get cancer.'"
Originally given 10-12 months to live, Bensen was able to extend her life with targeted therapy treatments she received at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, followed Nolan into the 8th District seat, and said he spoke with Nolan on Tuesday, conveying condolences and saying he would continue to pray for the family.
“I am absolutely heartbroken to hear about the passing of Rick Nolan’s beloved daughter, Katherine," Stauber said in a statement issued by his congressional office. "She fought a brave fight against cancer, inspiring so many with her positivity and determination. We must eradicate the terrible disease that claimed her life, and I pledge to do everything in my power to secure additional funding for research on lung cancer and other types of cancers."
Her obituary described Bensen assembling a team earlier this year to work with lawmakers to draft "Katherine's Lung Cancer Early Detection Act of 2020," a measure that would expand early screening.
"They're just not looking for lung cancer in young, healthy women," Bensen told the News Tribune in 2017.
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pennsylvania, is carrying the proposed legislation, with co-sponsorships from U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-California, and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-New Jersey.
This story was updated at 2:20 p.m. Sept. 15, 2020 to include Rep. Pete Stauber's comments. It was originally posted at 12:08 p.m. Sept. 15, 2020.