As a family we did everything to enjoy the fresh air and take advantage of the outdoor opportunities. After graduating from the backpack and stroller, each year I learned something new. Whether it was biking, running, rock climbing, hiking, skiing or playing sports, my connection with the fresh air grew into part of my well-being. In addition to being a solace for recreation, I began valuing the gift of nature and trying to do my part in minimizing my carbon footprint. I walked to school everyday even when it was 1.5 miles away and rode my bike to my music and dance lessons.
While I was in my last year of my undergrad degree, I received a phone call. I knew my mom was having problems with her hip, but I thought that it stemmed from overuse issues. She is a modern day mountain woman; constantly seeking out adventure. Something wasn't right immediately from her tone of voice, and as I heard her tell me she had Stage 4 lung cancer, my stomach sunk and tears streamed down my face. Suddenly I felt lost in a blur of uncertainty and anger towards the idea that this would happen to the strongest woman in my life. After years of being fed every leafy green vegetable imaginable to routinely marching up mountains, this was not supposed to happen.
Watching my mom go through the physical and mental struggles of dealing with lung cancer has been difficult for my whole family. Although we have successfully built joy and optimism into our lives, there is a underlining fear I face daily of the unknown. I am immensely grateful for the treatments my mom has been able to receive and feel fortunate have access to doctors that can guide her decisions. Through the ups and downs the latest research has kept us grounded and hopeful.
As I finish my masters degree, I see my mom and myself as strong and as free. Fighting through the pain in her body and finding ways to be stronger than her unruly mutations, my mom not only advocates for lung cancer awareness and research but also fights for clean air. She is a warrior woman in so many ways but cannot fight alone. Continued support for lung cancer research, timely access to new FDA approved drugs, and restrictions on air polluters are essential to not only my mom but also to all of those individuals who never imagined this would happen to them. The truth is, anyone who breathes can get lung cancer.