Nearly eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The news came as a complete shock. None of the lung cancer risk factors applied to me.
High-quality medical care literally saved my life, and since my diagnosis, I have completed a 5K race in all 50 states. I am now running 10K races across the country and in every continent, and I even summited Mount Kilimanjaro with most of my left lung missing.
I also dedicate my life to raising awareness for lung cancer and the importance of clean air. Air pollution may be a less well-known risk factor associated with lung cancer, but in fact, exposure to fine particle pollution has been shown to cause lung cancer. Without clean air, everybody suffers, and particularly those of us whose respiratory systems are compromised. And kids. And people 65 and over. And anyone with lung or heart disease. And people with low incomes. Citizens in these groups are all more vulnerable to the health impacts of poor air quality. When you add together everyone in these high-risk groups, you can see that we’re talking about a sizeable subset of our population.
Congress was acting to protect Americans’ health when it passed the Clean Air Act, a public health law that gives us tools to clean up pollution from major sources like power plants and vehicles. Without it, we’re at greater risk of lung cancer, as well as heart attacks, stroke, and asthma attacks, and even shorter lives. We all deserve healthy air to breathe and that’s why I am fighting for clean air.