Tewksbury Woman Climbs for Lung Association in Memory of Loved Ones Lost to Lung Cancer

Stair climb event supports nonprofit’s research, education and advocacy efforts

(November 27, 2013)

Paula Cullen photoThe American Lung Association returns to Boston for its ninth annual Fight for Air Climb: Race Up Boston Place on Saturday, February 1, 2014. About 2,000 climbers are expected, including over 500 firefighters, to tackle the 789 stairs of One Boston Place, one of the tallest buildings in the city, all to raise money in the fight against lung disease.  Among the climbers will be Paula Cullen of Tewksbury who will be climbing in memory of her mother and several other people who are special to her that have either been lost to lung disease or are struggling to beat their addiction to tobacco. This will be Cullen’s third year climbing as part of the Breath of Fresh Air Team, a group of 14 who have a shared mission to help put an end to all lung disease.  

“I saw at a very young age what the consequences of tobacco use could be,” says Cullen.  “When I was just ten years old my grandfather, who was the light of my world, died from lung cancer.   After that I swore I would never smoke and I haven’t.  Sadly, years later lung cancer claimed the lives of both my aunt and my mother.   By the upcoming February climb, my mom will have been gone 19 years.   She had smoked for more than 40 years and was unable to quit smoking until she was diagnosed with lung cancer, when it was already too late.”

Cullen says she climbs not only for those she’s lost, but for those she loves who are still struggling to beat a tobacco addiction.  “I have friends who are in their 40s who initially started smoking in their teens and 20s to look cool; like so many others they thought they could quit at anytime,  but they haven’t’ been able to.  I climb for them, too , because I want them to be able to quit so they can live longer and healthier lives and be spared the pain that comes with tobacco-caused disease. ”

For Cullen, the Fight for Air Climb is a day filled with many emotions.   While she’s climbing, Paula stays focused on her mother and why she is climbing during those 10-15 minutes. “I feel very close to my mom while I am climbing and feel like she is with me and giving me the strength I need to get to the top.”

Paula says there’s also an excitement that comes from being with so many likeminded people who are committed to finding better treatments and cures for lung disease.    “When you’re in the building standing in line waiting to take your turn, you look around and you notice that there’s not a single person in the building who is unhappy or isn’t ecstatic about being a part of this,” says Cullen.  “There’s a real energy in the building that’s infectious; everyone is just so pumped up and can’t wait to take their turn at climbing the stairs.  When I am at the Fight for Air Climb, there’s no place I’d rather be and there’s no better feeling than reaching the top of the building.”

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of Americans, responsible for more deaths in the United than breast, colon and prostate - combined.  Lung cancer is not just a smoker’s disease; each day 78 people who have never smoked die from lung cancer. The American Lung Association is working hard to eliminate the stigma that lung cancer carries and believes that no one deserves lung cancer. Visit LungNE.org for more on what the American Lung Association is doing to combat lung cancer and to support those who are diagnosed with the disease.

All proceeds from the Boston Fight for Air Climb will directly fund lung disease research, advocacy and education; including smoking cessation programs, COPD/asthma management, and advocacy for stronger clean air standards. Last year, Race Up Boston Place raised $440,000 to support the mission of the American Lung Association.

“Race Up Boston Place” is sponsored by CB Richard Ellis, ImmunoGen, Inc., DSCI, Lahey Health, Kindred Hospital Boston and Whole Foods Market. The event is also made possible with the support of national Corporate Team partner, Kindred Healthcare.  To learn more about Race Up Boston Place, or to make a donation that could save lives, visit ClimbofYourLife.org.

To support Paula Cullen and help the American Lung Association find better treatments and cures for lung disease, visiting her personal page at go.lungne.org/Cullen2014