WHY I CHAMPION THIS CAUSE: After several years of supporting the Komen 5K Run/Walk for Breast Cancer Research, it dawned on me that I was supporting the wrong cause. Not that breast cancer isn't a worthy cause and not because I didn't know anyone affected by the disease, but because I had lost BOTH of my parents to forms of LUNG disease. The American Lung Association was the cause I needed to give my time and attention to.
My mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer at the age of 54. After nine months of treatment which included radiation, chemotherapy and experimental protocols her tumor, which started out the size of a lemon, had been reduced to the size of shirt button. After a one month respite from treatment, my mom's next PET scan showed that the tumor had metastasized and spread to her brain, bones and most major organs. She died two weeks later at the age of 55 almost a year to the day of her original diagnosis.
My father, ironically, quit smoking six months prior to my mother's diagnosis of lung cancer. Six years after her passing he received his own terminal diagnosis. He was given two to four months to live after years of refusing a lung transplant and battling both COPD and congestive heart failure. He lived 28 months under modified hospice care. He was house bound and on oxygen 24 hours a day. He was in his mid 60s, but looked as if he was in his 80s. He died at the age of 67.
At the age of 37 I was now an orphan having watched both of my parents die at the hands of lung disease from their years of addiction to nicotine.
For the last several years I have worked with my local office of the American Lung Association to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer, general lung health and air quality. Fundraising each year in my parents' names is the one truly good thing I do each year. In striving to share awareness it is my greatest hope that I also honor both my mom and my dad.