Kathleen Fennig, a Beavercreek resident, was caring for her cancer stricken cousin when something inside her told her to get tested for lung cancer. Being a nurse, she knew she was high risk for lung cancer. Even so, she never really thought she would hear the words, “you have lung cancer” but that was the reality she faced after having a biopsy of a suspicious area in 2011. Today, she’s a survivor and she wants to help raise awareness of lung cancer with “Dayton Free to Breathe” Run/Walk that occurred last month at the Fifth Third Field.
“In 1960, President Nixon declared war on cancer and at that time, the survival rate for lung cancer was 16% at 5 yrs. and it’s still the same because of so little research. Also, lung cancer is typically diagnosed at stage IV and that’s usually why people don’t live very long after diagnosis,” said Fennig. “Smokers are not the only ones that are diagnosed with lung cancer. Half of all lung cancer diagnosis are to people that have already quite smoking and 10%-15% to people that have never smoked.”
She indicated that lung cancer takes the lives of over 160,000 a year in the United States and that it’s more cancer related deaths than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Over 440 people die a day from lung cancer.
“That’s like a plane falling from the sky. If a plane fell out of the sky everyday and 440 people died every day from the crash, we would be doing something about it,” Fennig said. “But, we have all these people dying from lung cancer and no one does anything about it.”
During her journey to become cancer-free, she learned that information regarding lung cancer was scarce and hard to find. She also learned that lung cancer, even though the #1 cancer also has the lowest funds available, unlike that of the well publicized breast cancer. So, she set out to change that. She is now the chair of the Dayton Free to Breathe walk/run and hopes to not only raise money for the research and educational programs, but also for awareness. The foundation aims to double the lung cancer survival rate by 2022.
Since 2006, the Free to Breathe organization has raised over $10M nationwide with 100% of the proceeds going directly to research and patient programs to help with the survival rate. Last year, in the Dayton area alone, the walk/run event raised $24,000 and we’re hoping to raise $40,000 this year, Fennig said. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go.”
Free to Breathe is a non-profit national lung cancer research and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring survival. This annual event will continue next October. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the website at freetobreathe.org or call (608) 828-8852.