Why We Walk

We walk for people. For patients and their loved ones. For colleagues and neighbors. For everyone affected by lung disease. We walk because together we can defeat lung cancer and lung disease one step at a time.

What is a LUNG FORCE Hero?

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 Run/Walk Kick-off event, Corporate Recruitment event and/or on Run/Walk day.

If you're interested in becoming a LUNG FORCE Hero, please contact Susanna Crestetto 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!

Read why these LUNG FORCE Heroes walk.

Shannon S.

LUNG FORCE Hero Shannon S.

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.

Mike S.

LUNG FORCE Hero Mike S.

My stage 4 lung cancer story starts in 2016. After experiencing breathing spasms and tightness in my chest along with pain, I knew that it wasn’t my asthma bothering me. I began experiencing severe chest pain in July 2016 resulting in awakening in the middle of the night with what was thought to be a heart attack. After subsequent trips and changing primary care physician, a simple chest x-ray and review of my medical history indicated something else. Upon further testing, I was informed of a large mass in my right lung which resulted in a positive lung cancer diagnosis confirmed in September 2016.

Shortly thereafter I had a brain MRI and it revealed a tumor near my right ear. My treatment initially started with radiation on my T2 vertebrae tumor and my brain. I was also on a targeted therapy Gilotrif. Though I initially responded well, I developed radiation pneumonitis and several months later a brain edema. As the swelling in my brain did not respond to steroids, I subsequently had a craniotomy in July 2017 and responded so well that I actually cut the grass the following weekend.

I was in fairly good health until the last few months of 2018 when I developed a chronic cough and wheezing. I had a bronchoscopy in December 2018 and my cancer gene had mutated. As a result, I was taken off Gilotrif and was faced with a decision to go on Tagrisso, an FDA approved drug, or potentially a clinical trial. I opted for the clinical trial drug as I thought it offered me the best chance to continue fighting this horrific disease. As it turns out, my first scan on the clinical trial drug revealed a 20-25% regression in tumor size.

Unfortunately, I developed brain mets during the trial. However, I transitioned to Tagrisso and in four months, all evidence of brain mets were eradicated. I believe in patient advocacy, leading an active life, promoting physical exercise and helping others learn through my journey and offer to help mentor other newly diagnosed cancer fighters and on my way to being a five year lung cancer survivor!