February 21st – a day of joy; a day of sorrow. Today is my birthday; Today also marks the 17 month anniversary of my husband’s death. Right next to my birthday candles will be a memorial candle to Bob. This article is not so much about my birthday as it is about Bob’s death. You see, he died of LUNG CANCER 18 months after it was diagnosed.
Bob was a smoker for 30 years. He admitted to smoking 3 packs a day before he quit 34 years ago. If he “admitted” to 3 packs a day, one can’t help but wonder just how many packs he really smoked daily. It doesn’t matter, because he ranked giving up smoking as his #1 accomplishment in life. His Ph.D was secondary to giving up smoking.
I remember one day after he had told me he quit, that I spotted his car driving down Sunset Cliffs ahead of me by 2-3 cars. It looked rather strange until I realized that he had his jacket “pinned” by the closed window, flapping in the breeze, to get rid of the tobacco smell. He hadn’t given up smoking after all. Another time he made a frantic call to the dentist to find out why he had so many sores in his mouth. Turned out he was chewing cinnamon gum so often he developed an allergy to it. Why the gum you ask? So that I wouldn’t smell the cigarettes on his breath.
Last year I heard about the “San Diego Breath of Hope Lung Cancer Walk”. It was the 2nd time that the LUNG CANCER ALLIANCE put on the 5K walk. I had just lost 100 pounds; had never walked anywhere before, but decided that for “my Bobby” I would try to complete the walk. I owed it to him to try.
Eighteen friends and family walked with me on that day. Friends that I met after he died; friends that had known him for years; students that lived with us to learn to speak English; and some of our children. We were honoring his memory.
Lung Cancer research is the lowest funded research of all of the cancers. Yet it is the #1 killer of all ethnic groups in the United States. And, unfortunately, it is usually diagnosed as Stage IV – the final and last stage of its life. There are few symptoms that manifest itself in its early stages.
Following the 2nd Annual Walk last year I was horrified to find that the Union Tribune did not even report on it. I wrote to them about their lack of coverage, and they published my letter. It follows:
“ Dear Editor,
As a recent widow of a man that died of lung cancer, I am appalled at the lack of coverage you gave (or didn’t give) the Lung Cancer 5K Walk this past Sunday, May 2nd. There were over 770 walkers in the event, and over $100,000 was raised. What a piddly amount compared to the Susan G. Komen 3Day walk that generated over 10 million dollars in San Diego alone.
Lung Cancer kills more Americans than breast, prostate, colon, live, kidney and melanoma cancers COMBINED, yet our only San Diego Newspaper did not report anything on this walk. To make matters worse, 50% of lung cancer victims have never smoked, or are former smokers. What a sad commentary of our times. Every 1 in 3 cancer deaths are from LUNG cancer. And, it is the least funded cancer in the research field today. How can you, the U/T justify no coverage for this event”
I would like to get the jump on the walk this year. It will be held on May 1st, and starts out at the Cancer Survival Park on Harbor Drive across from the airport. Registration takes place there and the easy – and beautiful walk – takes us to Harbor Island, around the point where Tom Hom’s restaurant is, and back to the pavilion for closing ceremonies. The cost is so minimal – $30 – compared to the Susan G. Komen registration fee of $2400! per walker. (That is the price of the “on-line registration.” It includes a ticket for the Padre/Astro game on June 4th.) And…the entry fee includes a shirt. I would love to have you walk with my “team” – called, “Judi’s Bobby.” Besides the Lung Cancer Walk shirt, some of us are purchasing shirts with Bob’s picture on it in his memory. They will cost about $15. But the big thing is not the purchase of anything. The BIG THING is to donate to the Lung Association.
I have many friends that still smoke. When they see me they get a guilty look on their face, as if they are doing something wrong. The guilt speaks for them.
It is that guilt that needs to be transformed into something positive. Perhaps saving their own life is the key.
If you are interested in joining us on May 1st, please check out the website at www.sdbreathofhope.kintera.org Go to “Participant Registration” and mark the “X” that tells them that you want to join an existing team. Again, my “team” is called “Judi’s Bobby.” You will find all the information there that you need.
Come on, Ragsters – let’s kick some butt(s) – let’s kick the habit for your life.