On May 7, 2018, my husband Andrew called me at work to say that he was going to stop by urgent care on the way home from work as the cough that had been plaguing him started to make his chest hurt. I honestly didn't think much of it at the time, but started to get concerned when 4 hours later, he still wasn't home. He called me when he left their office to tell me he was finally on his way home and mumbled something about them performing a chest x-ray and seeing something that looked like a giant mass, not sure was it was. I was immediately concerned, hoping and praying for the best but fearing the worst. It was only a few days later, that Friday, when Andrew spoke the words that I feared most in my life - it was confirmed - "I've got cancer." It was like a punch to the gut, as my first experiences with death were losing both of my grandmothers to lung cancer not even a year apart, and now my best friend, my husband, was being given the same fate. While the news was certainly devastating to Andrew as well, he handled his diagnosis more courageously than anyone I know, and he faced his lung cancer head on, knowing the odds weren't in his favor but was determined to live. For this, he will always be my hero.
In the days since my husband passed, I think about how Andrew struggled to breathe. Watching anyone, especially someone you love, struggle to breath can leave you feeling helpless, as they try to suck in as much air as possible but unable to get enough. It is something I witnessed with Andrew, as well as others. I have watched people around me struggle to breath as covid-19 has ripped through our communities and can't help but see the similarities between lung cancer and Covid. I have seen family members have asthma attacks, in absolute panic as they desperately try to wheeze air in and out of their lungs. I've seen strong people lose their freedom and independence, weakened by their lung disease and forced to live the rest of their lives connected to oxygen tanks. All of this has helped me to realize that breathing is something that I have always taken for granted, but not anymore.
That is why I continue to support the American Lung Association and its vision for a world free of lung disease, whether it be lung cancer, covid-19, asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, or any other lung disease. I originally signed up to walk with the ALA back in 2018, a few weeks after Andrew’s diagnosis, hoping beyond hope that we would find his cure. While I can't go back in time and change the outcome for Andrew, I do have the ability to keep pushing for those still here, fighting alongside the ALA to find a cure for any of these lung diseases in order to help others. That is what Andrew would have wanted. Throughout his sickness, we met many people fighting their own battles and Andrew's heart broke for every person he met. He would lend them his strength, share in a laugh and brighten their days to help them keep pushing forward, even when he was himself tired and worn out. That is why I keep pushing. I keep pushing to make Andrew proud and to show him that I have not given up. I keep pushing to help find the cure so no one else has to face the struggles Andrew faced. And I keep pushing so no other wife has to kiss her husband and best friend goodbye at the age of 36, so no other mother has to outlive their child, and so no one else's family and friends have to live with a hole in their hearts that can never be filled.
This is my fifth year working with the amazing team at the American Lung Association and participating in the LUNG FORCE Walk Westchester, and I am proud to share that they have bestowed upon me the honor of being the Corporate Chair for the walk committee. Together with the team, we are working hard to raise funds to help find a cure for those diagnosed with lung cancer, covid-19, and any of the other lung diseases faced by so many people. We want to bring attention to everyday risks to our lung health like air quality and encourage people to talk to their doctors about lung screenings if they feel like they are at risk. We also want to break the stigma that comes with lung cancer and help people realize that the only requirement for being at risk for lung cancer is having lungs. It’s not just a smoker’s disease. We all have a different story of what brought us to LUNG FORCE, but what keeps us there is all the same: HOPE.
On June 25, we will be walking at Manhattanville College, in Purchase, NY, and I would be honored for you to join me and support me in my goal to raise $5,000 to support lung research. I will be walking in memory of Andrew, my best friend and soulmate, whom I will miss every day of my life until we meet again. I will be walking for my two grandmothers, Cecelia and Margaret, who were also taken too soon due to lung cancer. I will be walking for my uncle Gene who lost his battle with pulmonary fibrosis in March 2021. I will be walking for my uncle Jerry who is still dealing with the long-term effects of covid but who also continues defying all odds and won't give up. I will be walking for my mother and brother who both suffer from asthma. And I will be walking so that one day we may all be so lucky as to take breathing for granted again.