By: Julia Hall—Staff Writer
Free to Breathe and UD’s Gamma Epsilon Lambda, a co-ed service fraternity, are making strides in lung cancer research and awareness. Their efforts are currently focused on a fundraising event, the eighth-annual Free to Breath 5K run and walk, along with a one-mile option, at the Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton Oct. 24.
Last year, over 335 participants raised over $20,000 were raised for the 5K, according to Free to Breathe’s website.
The lofty aims of the event’s planners mirror the dedication of the Free to Breathe organization. The vision of the nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for lung cancer research is shared by the Dayton Event Chair for Free to Breathe Kathleen Fennig.
“The goal of Free to Breathe is to double lung cancer survival by the year 2022,” Fennig said.
In addition to the endeavors of the Free to Breathe organization as a whole, the personal contribution and motivation of Fennig’s involvement provides an invigorating example of service.
“I started volunteering for Free to Breathe in 2011,” Fennig explained. “In 2011, I had a life-changing event in that I was diagnosed with lung cancer myself.”
After one of her family members fell victim to lung cancer, she pursued a chest X-ray and CT scan for herself.
“They found two small nodules about the size of a grain of rice in my mid lobe that ended up being lung cancer,” Fennig said.
However, in the face of her diagnosis, Fennig chose to become an advocate for lung cancer and its survivors.
“I decided I would get up and brush myself off and make a difference,” Fennig proclaimed.
Fennig and Free to Breathe strive to bring awareness to the lung cancer, especially because it is a highly stigmatized cancer, and according to Free to Breathe’s website it is often overlooked and misinterpreted.
The normal correlation between smoking and lung cancer is often overly emphasized.
“Before Oscar, my relative, died of lung cancer, I had always associated lung cancer with smoking,” Fennig said. “I soon found out that isn’t always true.”
Smoking may increase the chances of lung cancer or make it worse, but it is not the only activity linked to the destructive illness.
Fennig provided some statistics: “Sixty percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer have either never smoked or were former smokers and quit years ago.”
Lung cancer has caused the most deaths of all cancers, according to the American Lung Association.
Surrounded by a myriad of pink breast cancer races and rallies, one might be surprised to find that lung cancer leads as the most malignant type of cancer in both men and women, according to the CDC.
“I remember my nurses saying, ‘Lung cancer takes no prisoners,’” Fennig reminisced. “Or, in other words, everyone that is diagnosed with lung cancer dies.”
I remember my nurses saying, ‘Lung cancer takes no prisoners.’ Or, in other words, everyone that is diagnosed with lung cancer dies.
Furthermore, she explained, “The statistics for cancer survival are the same now as they were in the 1960s.”
In light of these statistics, information and emotion surrounding this disease, Free to Breathe uses fundraising events such as the 5K to support and to fund research.
Ariana Tourlas, a junior International Studies major and Gamma Epsilon Lambda member, stumbled across this event on the Internet. She chose to reach out to Fennig and connect them to the UD community for the upcoming run/walk.
“What we had to do for GEL is find a service project outside of GEL in small groups,” Tourlas said. “My group and few others are volunteering at the 5K. There are around 30 of us total.”
With a large amount of work to be completed to generate a successful 5K, Fennig said she was overjoyed to receive a call from Tourlas.
“I am so grateful to them for volunteering their time and taking the time to seek out volunteer opportunities” Fennig said. “I had always been aware how servant leadership has always been accentuated at the University of Dayton.”
“I thought it would be interesting to do something different,” Tourlas explained of her personal interest in Free to Breathe. “I have done Relay for Life in the past, and I saw the Free to Breathe 5K and thought it sounded awesome.”
“I think it shows that we want to help out the community not only on campus, but also outside of campus in the Dayton community as a whole,” Tourlas said. “We don’t always realize that we live in a city that could use our help and that it has many events going on that provide opportunities to do so.”
If you are interested in joining Tourlas and Gamma Epsilon Delta in supporting Free to Breathe’s efforts to diminish lung cancer, registration for the 5K run/walk or one-mile loop is available online or on site. Registration opens at 8 a.m. The cost is $25, and the proceeds go toward lung cancer research.
Graph by Art Director Kelsey Mills.