It’s great to be a part of Run As One every year. It brings it around full circle—everything my family and I have learned about lung cancer and our commitment to helping other families facing the disease.
My brother Don and I lost our Dad to non-small cell lung cancer in 2009. Dad was diagnosed too late because, as a non-smoker, it didn’t occur to any doctor that he could have lung cancer. My Dad led a very active and healthy lifestyle; however, he developed an irritating incessant cough. Almost a year and several visits to different doctors later, he was diagnosed on Halloween 2007 and was told to get his affairs in order.
I had an opportunity to learn a little bit about lung cancer during my time working in DC for Congressman Clay Shaw, who spoke openly about his own lung cancer and the treatments he received. One of his treatments included a “miracle drug” called Tarceva. Dad also went on Tarceva, which he responded to very well and we were so grateful to have him with us for 18 months more than we ever expected. During this time, my Dad met and became friends with Admiral Phil Coady, a co-founder of the Lung Cancer Alliance, which he formed after his own diagnosis with the disease. The Admiral was a real sounding board for Dad in a way that we couldn’t be, despite all of our love and support for him.
The willingness of both of these survivors to provide guidance and to share their experience was so important for our dad’s quality of life. It’s also one of the reasons Don and I are so committed to raising awareness and money for lung cancer research.
We’ve been involved with Run As One from the get-go. My sister-in-law, Robin, is a surgical physician’s assistant at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and learned of the event through work. We are blessed to have an amazing group of friends and family who participated in the first Run As One in April 2008 as “Team Making It Jake”— in honor of our Dad. That November, Don ran the ING New York City Marathon to benefit lung cancer research and the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation. Don successfully raised over $30,000 for lung cancer research, way more than his original $2,500 commitment. Not bad for a first-time fundraiser!
“Team Making It Jake” has participated in Run As One every year and we’re looking forward to this year’s event. We’re especially pleased that Labrecque and LUNGevity are partnering on the event again—lung cancer is so big and we really believe in having everyone working together. This year Don and I are also looking forward to raising more funds as co-chairs, together along with Andy and Erin Stern, Shannon Broder and John Rigos, at the second annual SPiN Ping Pong Event. This is another joint Labrecque-LUNGevity event coming up on June 5th. We are doing this to honor Dad, while supporting an organization that has had a direct and positive impact on our lives.
Our family was completely blindsided by this disease and it took a good couple of months to even be able to process this enormous change in our lives. We don’t want another family go through the pain of losing a loved-one like we did. It is so difficult to witness a parent suffer and not be able to help. If we can do something to avoid that agony, we will do it. This is personal for us, and lung cancer needs to get the attention it warrants. Through great organizations like LUNGevity and the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation, we’re on the right track.
Don and I believe that people are becoming more and more aware of lung cancer through these types of organizations. Lung cancer can happen to anyone, and the stigma of it being the ‘smoker’s disease’ is hopefully disbanding. The faces of lung cancer are changing; and more attention needs to be recognized. With that in mind, events like Run As One and SPiN are a great way to support lung cancer research and have some fun doing it. We’re focused on doing our part to help another family avoid going though what we went through. And we look forward to seeing everyone in Central Park on April 28!