Madelyn Anetrella

Madelyn Anetrella MomIn October 1999, my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer.  I was sixteen years old and a Junior in high school.  I knew what cancer was, but we never discussed the details, and I never fully understood the severity of her prognosis.  I just stepped in as her helper, taking my younger brother to school, sports practices, and church, preparing meals, paying bills, driving my mom to doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy sessions, and trying to maintain my normal school and social life. 

It was a Thursday afternoon toward the end of February and I was at the mall shopping with a girlfriend when I got a call from my mom’s friend.  My mom had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.  My mom wanted me to go home and take care of my brother.  So I did.  We spent Saturday night at the hospital with her, and on Sunday, we went home to get ready for the school week.  Little did we know, that was the last time we would see her alive. 

That night, on March 1, 1999, less than 6 months after her diagnosis, my mom passed away.  She was only 51 and left behind two teenage children, ages 14 and 16.  We were shocked.

After my mom’s passing, life was difficult, but she had taught my brother and me to be strong and stick together, and we wanted to make her proud.  We both finished high school and went on to college.  I was a graduate student, in 2004, when my father had five bypass heart surgery.  After the surgery, his heart and lungs never fully recovered.  A few years later, he was later diagnosed with congestive heart failure and COPD. 

Madelyn Anetrella DadThis was the first I had ever heard of COPD, which stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and over his 3 year struggle, I became all too familiar with this little known disease that is the 3rd leading cause of death in America.  My dad went on oxygen full time, depended on steroids to breathe, and lost all of his muscle strength.  He moved into a nursing home where he spent the last four months of his life.  On Sunday, April 25, 2010, after a long battle with heart and lung disease, my dad passed away peacefully in his sleep at age 67. 

Lung disease has devastated my life.  Lung disease took away my family.  Not a day goes by that I do not miss my parents, and like the American Lung Association, my personal mission is to help create a world without lung disease.  My work with the lung association is not always easy, but I feel fortunate to have a job where I can share my story, work with others who have also been touched by lung disease, and use my time and energy to make a difference in lung health.

Madelyn Anetrella, MA
Development Manager
American Lung Association in Kentucky