After several years of supporting the Komen 5K Run/Walk for Breast Cancer Research, it dawned on me that I was supporting the wrong cause. Not that breast cancer isn't a worthy cause and not because I didn't know anyone affected by the disease, but because I had lost BOTH of my parents to forms of LUNG disease. The American Lung Association was the cause I needed to give my time and attention to.
My mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer at the age of 54. After nine months of treatment which included radiation, chemotherapy and experimental protocols her tumor, which started out the size of a lemon, had been reduced to the size of shirt button. After a one month respite from treatment, my mom's next PET scan showed that the tumor had metastasized and spread to her brain, bones and most major organs. She died two weeks later at the age of 55 almost a year to the day of her original diagnosis.
My father, ironically, quit smoking six months prior to my mother's diagnosis of lung cancer. Six years after her passing he received his own terminal diagnosis. He was given two to four months to live after years of refusing a lung transplant and battling both COPD and congestive heart failure. He lived 28 months under modified hospice care. He was house bound and on oxygen 24 hours a day. He was in his mid 60s, but looked as if he was in his 80s. He died at the age of 67.
At the age of 37 I was now an orphan having watched both of my parents die at the hands of lung disease from their years of addiction to nicotine.
For the last several years I have worked with my local office of the American Lung Association to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer, general lung health and air quality. Fundraising each year in the names of Jack and Sue Skelly is the one truly good thing I do each year. In striving to share awareness it is my greatest hope that I also honor both my mom and my dad.
Most of you know about the tragic news that hit my family in 2017, when my best friend, my go-to person, my brother, Robert Settler (a.k.a. Uncle Buck) was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. He was diagnosed in February and died 7 months later, on September 5, 2017. Robert was not only my “everything”, he was so many people's “everything.” A natural husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend, Robert touched so many lives which was evident by the huge turnout at both of his services in Albany, NY (his hometown) and then the next day in Westchester County, where his body was laid to rest. Robert was the second brother that I lost (Ricky died in 2002 at the age of 42).
When Robert’s wife, Susan Settler, and his two amazing daughters, Julia and Lauren, approached me about doing something for this cause to benefit the American Lung Association; without hesitation, I told them I was all in! With the help from my wife, Mona Settler, and my staff (Addy, Karen, Marie, and Angelina) we joined the team to walk the event and help raise money to save lives by preventing lung disease through research, education and advocacy.
I am asking all my family, friends, clients and associates to help me in this fund raiser either by donating as little as $5.00 and/or participating in the event itself. It should be noted that Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of men and women and the ALA is leading a national movement to unite cancer and lung health thru a program called Lung Force. This program will be investing more than $10 million in lung cancer research and promotions to bring awareness to early detection tools such as CT screening, clinical trials and biomarker testing. They are also the leading advocates to increasing federal funding for lung cancer research to $450 million by 2020. I ask that you all find it in your heart and soul to help team Uncle Buck Strong raise money for this very important cause.
Randy and Jon were patrol partners for years. They were both diagnosed with lung cancer within several months of each other. Both fought the disease. By the grace of God, Randy survived, but Jon did not. Both are fathers, husband, sons, brothers, beloved friends and co-workers... and so many more things to so many more people. The Strong4Jon/Heroes4Higa LUNG FORCE Walk Seattle team, lead by Jon's daughter Lauren, fundraises year after year to help someday find a cure. Or even better yet, a way to prevent lung diseases.
Randy and his wife, Sandra, also participated in the 2021 LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day, asking members of Congress to support funding for the NIH and CDC, while also asking them to ensure that everyone has affordable, adequate and accessible healthcare.
LUNG FORCE Heroes are patients, caregivers, family, friends and co-workers of those who are impacted by lung cancer. Our Heroes share their powerful journeys — stories which help educate the public about what it's like to have lung cancer or lung disease. Heroes may also be asked to speak at a LUNG FORCE Walk Kick off event, Corporate Recruitment event and/or on Walk day.
If you're interested in becoming a LUNG FORCE Hero, please contact LUNGFORCEseattle@lung.org for more information. We also invite you to Share Your Voice and read about other Heroes' experiences too. Everyone's story is unique, and we appreciate you getting involved and becoming a LUNG FORCE Hero!