When we began the Cary Walk for Hope (aka Breathe Deep Cary) in 2007, I told my son THIS is what we are going to do about Lung Cancer. We are going to fight! We will be a voice for people affected by lung cancer. We are going to let people know about all the special people who have lost their fight and no longer have a voice, but we do. And we are going to give others HOPE.
My kids have been involved with LUNGevity from the beginning with me; helping me at events, putting up posters and raising awareness.
When I asked my 10 year old, “Tell me the first thing that pops in your head when I say the words ’Lung Cancer’?” He replies in less than two seconds… “Death.”
For a 10 year old that breaks my heart. Connor is my first born child and was five months old when my father lost his battle with stage 4 lung cancer. My second child Daniel (named after my dad) was born 2 years later, while my mother was fighting her battle with stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain. I found out I was pregnant with my third child four weeks before my mother lost her battle.
Connor remembers the visits to the hospital for my Mom, the late nights we stayed with her till my brother or sister relieved us to take over the next shift of care, the days we sat by her bedside before she took her last breath. I remember when we finally told him she had passed away… he cried and cried but looked up and said “what are we going to do about this?” That is a big statement for a 4.5 year old.
Two years later my children are 6, 4, and 2 and are faced with one of their favorite aunts passing away from guess what… complications from lung cancer and heart problems.
I think they really got the message when they met a very special person who was part of our 2nd year walk: Justin Andrews of the team “Justin’s Fight Club.” Connor was amazed by his story and for the next few weeks talked about him non-stop, the whys, the what-ifs.
Last year Justin was the face of the TRU TV campaign. These where short commercials that told Justin and his family’s story about lung cancer. And about smoking. You saw him in the hospital, in his house, with his beautiful wife and little boy. My kids would stop whatever they were doing when those commercials came on. They were still, they listened, they knew all too well the faces of lung cancer. It did not have to be someone who is 50-60 years old. They got the message loud and clear.
At the Cary Walk for Hope last year we gave out medals to the winners in top finishing spots of our 5k. I had one medal left over. Connor said “Mommy don’t you think we should give that metal to Justin, he’s been through so much.” Children have this gift of unconditional love and gratitude that I find amazing. Connor walked over and gave Justin the medal and then shook his hand. A truly amazing parent moment.
For Thanksgiving of last year we went to spend it with my husband’s family in Massachusetts. When I got the email from Justin’s sister of his passing my heart broke for another family that was forever going to be affected by this disease. As I tried to hide my sadness from everyone that day, especially Connor, I could not hold it in any longer and pulled Connor aside and told him. The hope Connor always had in his eyes when Justin was getting better or in remission and the hope he had in his heart that what I was working for with the events that I put on for LUNGevity to help raise money for a cure were gone. Like many we felt defeated. Like I could not catch my breath.
Life goes on and these moments that take our breath away make us in to the people we are.
I still have HOPE; I still pray every day that we will one day find a cure. I hope that one day when I ask Connor again, “What are the first words that come to your mind when I say lung cancer?” I hope his reply is HOPE or better yet CURE.
This year LUNGevity launched an initiative to spotlight incredible lung cancer survivor stories and hosted the inaugural HOPE Summit, bringing together lung cancer survivors from the ages of 25-65. Some were in treatment and others were months and years into their survivorship. They are the faces of lung cancer and show the nation that anyone can get lung cancer and that there is HOPE. People DO survive this disease and we need funding for more treatments that lead to a cure.
If you are interested in becoming an advocate like Liz McCabe, please visit our website www.lungevity.org to learn more about LUNGevity. Please join LUNGevity’s Link Up advocacy program and learn the many ways you can help in the fight against lung cancer and help to create HOPE.
You can join Liz and Cary residents for the Breath Deep 5k Cary NC, Saturday October 8, 2011 at the Wake Med Soccer Park.
For more information please email Liz McCabe at email@example.com or visit the website: www.lungevity.org/cary