I started running for Lung Cancer Research Fund in 2012, just a few months after my brother Matt's girlfriend, Carrie, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Carrie is the last person you would ever expect to receive such a diagnosis, being a nurse, runner and never-smoker, but she proves that no one is safe from this horrible and devastating disease.
Over the past couple of years, I have watched Carrie fight lung cancer with more strength, courage and optimism than I ever could have mustered or imagined. She is constantly inspiring me. No matter how bad things have gotten — even when the cancer spread to her brain and her bones — she refuses to let her diagnosis rule her life or get her down. She has been living every day to the fullest, having countless once-in-a-lifetime experiences and making so many wonderful memories. I don't know what her secret has been, but I suspect it was her and Matt's promise after her diagnosis to laugh every day.
Since Carrie lives in California and I live in Chicago, I don't get to see her very often and can't be there to help her and Matt out or keep her company during treatments or hospital stays. I registered for the 2012 Chicago Lung Run thinking that was the least I could do to show my love and support, and have been running and fundraising ever since.
Last year I unfortunately got another reason to support LCRF when my great Aunt Chick was diagnosed with lung cancer. Aunt Chick was a sweet, classy and vibrant woman who was so well-loved by her husband, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as our entire extended family. Getting the chance to talk with her at family outings was always so fun, and I decided a while ago that I would love to be just like her when I'm older. She just loved life and spending it with her family, so we were all heartbroken when she lost her battle with lung cancer this past January.
One thing that these experiences have made really obvious is that lung cancer can happen to anyone. I find the stigma so annoying and unfair. I hate that if I tell someone about Carrie, they almost always ask if she smoked, as if that really makes a difference at this point. Carrie didn't, but Aunt Chick did. But the thing is, lung cancer is horrible and devastating either way. No one deserves cancer, or to be looked down upon because of it. And the stigma is especially frustrating as it's led to a huge discrepancy in funding when compared to other, less deadly cancers.
So I run in support of Carrie and in memory of Aunt Chick, and with the hope of erasing the stigma.