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“Just take that first step;” Woman Inspires Others to Climb Tower After Battle with Lung Disease

(January 14, 2020) - CLEVELAND, Ohio

For more information please contact:

Jill Thompson
[email protected]

11 years ago, Cleveland resident Catherine Widemire developed a chronic cough that wouldn’t go away. After doctors diagnosed her with adult-onset asthma, it took her years to get her disease under control. Thanks to support and education from the American Lung Association, she will climb the tallest tower in Ohio on February 23.

When Widemire was a child, she had exercise-induced asthma, which impacted her during strenuous activities, but not in everyday life. Then when she was 30 years old, she developed a chronic cough and shortness of breath. After the cough persisted for about six months, she visited a pulmonologist who diagnosed her with asthma.

“I was coughing all day long. My asthma is really weather and stress related,” said Widemire.

To help manage Widemire’s asthma, doctors had her try several medications. When one didn’t work, they prescribed a different medication. Nothing seemed like a fit for her, until a career change gave her some answers.

“I started working at a local health and wellness facility that focused on mental, chemical and nutritional change. I had to get those three things in line to make difference,” she said. “I changed my diet, did yoga, and it impacted my asthma. Once I started getting myself healthier, I was feeling a lot better. I also did acupuncture, which I have been doing for six years. With these lifestyle changes, I was able to get myself off all daily asthma medication.”

Two years ago, Widemire’s friend asked her to join her team for the Cleveland Fight For Air Climb. Widemire declined because she didn’t think it was possible with her asthma. Then, last year, when the same friend asked again, she said yes.

“When I started training, I took it slow. When you have asthma, you can’t go into it strong. I literally took that first step. I worked with my trainer and went from working out three days a week to five days a week. I wanted to race it as best as I could,” she said.

In February 2019, Widemire participated in the Fight For Air Climb at Key Tower in Cleveland. 

“It was one of the best days of my life. I finally was able to overcome my own fears,” she said. “The event itself was so much fun! There was so much good energy. Everyone is there to support each other. When I finally got to the top, I had exceeded my goal. My lungs were burning, but it was pretty special.”

On February 23, Widemire will participate in her second Fight For Air Climb at Key Tower. This year, the event has taken on a special meaning for her.

“I climb because of the inspiration, education, outreach and everything the American Lung Association does to bring awareness to lung disease,” Widemire said. “I encourage people to say yes to the Fight For Air Climb. I hope my story inspires at least one person. I hope to give a little push to someone who might think that there is no hope for them. Don’t give up hope. Take that first step. Just keep trying.”

The Fight For Air Climb invites individuals, families, groups of friends, corporate teams and first responders to race up the stairs of Key Tower, a total of 58 floors, 1,349 steps. To learn more about the Fight For Air Climb at Key Tower, happening on February 23, visit


About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

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