Betsy’s Flock Will Fight for Air & Lung Cancer Awareness at Annual Fight for Air Climb: Providence on March 28 | American Lung Association

Betsy’s Flock Will Fight for Air & Lung Cancer Awareness at Annual Fight for Air Climb: Providence on March 28

(March 23, 2015)

On Saturday, March 28 Betsy Bilodeau of North Dighton will join more 1,000 participants and firefighters in climbing the 348 steps of the Omni Providence Hotel at 1 West Exchange Street.  While people from all walks of life will be participating in the event, what makes Betsy’s climb stand out is that she is currently battling stage 4 lung cancer and has been for the last year.  That Betsy is here today to tell her story is a huge accomplishment: only about half of women diagnosed with lung cancer survive one year after diagnosis.  

Perhaps part of what makes Betsy’s climb possible is that she has Betsy’s Flock, a team of 20 supporters that keeps growing every day, behind her.   The team helps Betsy not just raise money but raise awareness about lung cancer in women.  Over the past 35 years, the rate of new lung cancer cases has dropped by 35 percent in men and doubled in women. More than two-thirds of people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked or are former smokers. Betsy’s Flock seeks to raise awareness and also spread the word that smoking isn’t the only cause of lung cancer.  Many don’t realize that there are other known causes including air pollution, radon, asbestos and genetic disorders.

“Lung Cancer research is wretchedly underfunded due to its association with cigarette smoking,” says Bilodeau. “As a non-smoker I am here to say, it can happen to anyone.  

Completing the Fight for Air Climb in Providence is my metaphor for my survival.  I am hoping to recruit so many climbers so that when we ascend in our V formation, we nearly take everyone’s breath away, for all the right reasons.” 

Betsy recalls how she was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after she returned from a wonderful cruise vacation.  She had decided to have a deep tissue massage on the last day of her trip.  Within 24 hours of her return home, however, she developed a searing pain near the center of her back. She visited her doctor and a chest x-ray was ordered to determine the cause. One thing led to another and, much to her surprise, lung cancer was ultimately diagnosed. 

Looking back, Betsy says her only real symptom other than the back pain was that she was becoming increasingly short of breath.  An active runner, she found she could no longer keep up with her runner friends and was starting to feel like staircases had become more like vertical challenges in an obstacle course.

Fight for Air Climbs are the American Lung Association’s most unique fundraisers. Climbs take place in prominent skyscrapers, stadiums or arenas and involve walking, running or racing up hundreds of steps. Sometimes called a "vertical road race," teams and individual participants can use the event as a fitness target, as a race, or as a great way to be active and meet new friends.  Many participants use it as a way to honor a family member that has been affected by lung disease.  Betsy learned of the event through her eye doctor, Dr. Lawrence Ginsburg who is a longtime climb participant. 

“Betsy Bilodeau is an inspiration to everyone who meets her,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “By sharing her story, she is really opening a lot of people’s eyes to the reality that anyone can get lung cancer.  This is a disease all of us need to care about and be committed to fighting.”

The 2015 Fight for Air Climb: Providence is proudly sponsored by Omni Hotels & Resorts, WJAR NBC 10, iHeartMedia, Union Station Brewery, MetLife, Amica, Absolute Respiratory Care, GTECH, Coastline EMS and Poland Spring.

There is still time to register or become involved in the Fight For Air Climb Providence.  To register, learn more about the event or to make a donation to help save lives, visit Questions about the event, how to form a team or how to become involved in the climb’s Firefighter Challenge can be directed to Event Manager, Daniel Bowler at or 401.533.5175. Online registration costs only $35 and is available until March 24. Same day registration costs $50.  All climbers are expected to raise at least $100 by event day.  

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