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Michael H.

We all become involved with organizations like the American Lung Association for a variety of reasons. Everyone has a story to tell. I would like to take a few minutes and share my story with you as to why I got involved. On a Friday morning in early May of 2004, my sister, Meg, went to her doctor with what she thought was just another bout of bronchitis. Her doctor ordered a chest X-ray. After reviewing her film, he sent her for a CT scan. She was admitted to the hospital later that afternoon for more tests. Saturday and Sunday, her doctor did more testing. Sunday also just happened to be Mother's Day. My sister and I changed the plans we had made to take our mother out to dinner, and instead we had hospital cafeteria pizza in my sister's room. While we were all there, enjoying Mother's Day and our pizza, her doctor came in. I knew from his demeanor that something was wrong. He told my sister that all the test results indicated she had advanced Stage IV small cell lung cancer. How's that for a Mother's Day present? Happy Mother's Day mom, I have lung cancer. In an instant, my sister became one of the more than 219,000 people who are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. My sister was a fighter. I knew she wasn't going to take her diagnosis sitting down. She put together a battle plan as if she were a general preparing to go into battle. She met with her doctors, did research on the internet. She talked to other cancer patients and survivors. She spoke to dietitians, holistic practitioners, and anyone remotely connected to fighting lung cancer. I guess in a way it was like going into battle. A battle that too many others are fighting. As I mentioned, I was with her the day she got her diagnosis and I was also her caregiver and with her as she went through countless chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I watched as her cancer went into remission and then came back. I watched as her cancer spread to her spine and then to her brain. I watched as she went from an outgoing, energetic, larger-than-life person to a semi-comatose shadow of her former self. She never once asked, "Why me?".

As her caregiver, I struggled along with her as she fought her battle, but my struggle was for a different reason. I struggled because I didn't know what to do to help her. After all, aren't big brothers supposed to take care of their little sisters? It was very frustrating for me to sit by and watch, and feel so helpless.

I was also with her on August 23, 2005 (18 months after her initial diagnosis), the day she died. It was just three days after her 50th birthday. She died very peacefully, almost as if to say, "I'm tired of fighting, I can't keep going". No one should ever have to go through what she went through. I made a promise to her that day to do whatever I could to prevent others from suffering the way she did. I would take up the fight that she so bravely fought and lost.

My avenue for helping others became the American Lung Association. I volunteered to help at a Fight for Air Stair Climb event. From there, my involvement progressed to serving on the Advisory Board of the American Lung Association, Gulf Coast area, and eventually serving as the Chairman. I currently serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Lung Association of the Southeast. I also serve on the National ALA Chairs Assembly.

Well, that's my story. I enjoy telling my story to anyone who will listen. I strongly believe in what the American Lung Association represents and everything it does for all the people suffering from some form of lung disease. I am honored to be associated with such a great organization. I know my sister is up there somewhere smiling.

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