Moved by a newspaper essay about the stigma borne by lung-cancer patients who did not contract the disease through smoking, Gail Wagner of Webster decided to take action.
The art teacher at Holy Trinity and St. Rita schools has organized a 5K race and walk to benefit lung-cancer research and to promote awareness and early detection. Called Meaghan’s Race in honor of the essay’s author, the event will take place at 9 a.m. April 12 at Holy Trinity School, 1456 Ridge Road.
“I thought this would be a great service project to have a race/walk that would involve students,” said Wagner, who noted that race proceeds will go to the Wilmot Cancer Center to be used for lung-cancer research.
Meaghan’s Race is named for Chili mother Meaghan Latone, who is battling nonsmoking lung cancer. She wrote the essay on the occasion of Lung Cancer Awareness month in November.
“She said money was needed for research so that doctors would be able to find it sooner,” Wagner said.
Latone said Wagner’s response was one of many phone calls, letters and e-mails she received after her essay was published. She said the idea for a race was a great one.
“Any way to raise money for lung cancer is a great idea,” said Latone, who is 36 and a Catholic. “There’s not enough research funding for lung cancer.”
Latone, who was diagnosed about two years ago, said she never expected that her ongoing back pain could have been connected with the disease.
“I don’t smoke so I wouldn’t even think to correlate that with lung cancer,” Latone said.
After several months of taking pain pills, Latone underwent a scan, which revealed that she had several abnormal cells. Follow-up tests revealed that her lung cancer had metastasized, or traveled, into her bones, which was causing the pain she felt. She noted that it’s common for people with lung cancer to be diagnosed only after the cancer has spread.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 108,000 men and 88,000 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Also in that year, nearly 90,000 men and 68,000 women in the U.S. died from lung cancer. More people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer, the CDC said.
Latone said she believes an affordable screening system is needed to catch lung cancer sooner, just as mammograms have been effective in catching breast cancer earlier.
“My chemo costs $30,000 a time,” Latone said. “A scan couldn’t possibly cost $30,000.”
As for her current health, Latone said she has her good days and bad days, but that the chemotherapy she is undergoing right now is working well.
Well enough, in fact, that she plans to walk in the race that bears her name.
“I’ll definitely be there,” Latone said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Registration for Meaghan’s Race is $10 for students and children and $15 for adults before April 6 and $20 after that date. T-shirts also are available to the first 200 people who register. There also is a registration discount for those who raise $30 in sponsorships. For registration details, e-mail email@example.com or call 585-872-5129.