NASHVILLE, TN | May 27, 2020
Local resident Aaron Hawkins never lets a bad diagnosis stop him from living a healthy lifestyle. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2019 that required surgery. Now cancer free, the 47-year-old father of two will run a half marathon in the American Lung Association in Tennessee’s virtual LUNG FORCE Run/Walk in June.
Hawkins’ goal is to raise funds for lung cancer research and for the Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative; a $25 million initiative to end COVID-19 and defend against future respiratory virus pandemics.
In 2003, Hawkins was diagnosed with the central nervous system disease, multiple sclerosis. Despite that, he completed 44 marathons before finding out he had cancer.
“There’s this stigma around cancer, I never smoked. You think, what did I do to cause this,” Hawkins said. “The answer is nothing, this just happened and you have to come to terms with that and make peace.”
He credits his multiple sclerosis diagnosis for preparing him with a positive mindset needed to take on cancer. There was only one time Hawkins vividly remembers being scared.
“It was 4:30 a.m. the morning of the surgery. I was going into the kid’s room to kiss them goodbye as they were sleeping and thought, if something goes sideways here this could be the last time I ever kiss my daughters,” Hawkins said. “That made me incredibly sad and very afraid.”
Two days before his surgery on November 11, 2019, Hawkins ran the Indianapolis marathon, the only marathon he’s completed while having lung cancer.
“My mindset was, I’m going to get as much use I can out of this lung while I still have it,” Hawkins said.
After beating cancer, Hawkins plans to build his strength back up running while continuing his mission to fundraise and bring awareness to lung health.
“People need to know that after 45 marathons you can still get lung cancer, and that exposure is key,” Hawkins added. “You only get one set of lungs, you need to take care of them.”
Hawkins has been a top fundraiser in past Lung Association events, raising $4,300 in the last year. His goal is to be a top five fundraiser by fundraising $1,500 more for the upcoming virtual LUNG FORCE event.
“I will invite absolutely every one of my friends to do it with me. I have an extremely strong support group,” Hawkins said. “Many of them want to donate their money to a worthy cause, and there’s none other more worthy.”
The Lung Association’s virtual LUNG FORCE Run/Walk will be held throughout the month of June. Participants are encouraged to run or walk their targeted distance outside while respectfully distancing from others or inside their own homes. Registration is $25. More information can be found at LUNGFORCE.org/Nashville.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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