Free to Breathe Lung Cancer 5K Rumble RunWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Louann Cummings hasn’t let having a third of her lung removed slow her down.
Since being diagnosed with lung cancer seven years ago, the distance runner has logged more than 8,000 miles, including two marathons and 12 half marathons.
The Perrysburg woman was training for a marathon in 2004 when a malignant tumor in her lung was discovered during a bone scan for a suspected stress fracture on her foot.
“It was completely an act of intervention from God and serendipitous because my lungs were strong from running and I had no symptoms from this disease,” Cummings said.
The diagnosis came as a shock for the lifelong nonsmoker and mother of four, who leaned on her husband, family and friends as she underwent chemotherapy and a right upper lobectomy.
Today, the University of Findlay business professor and new grandmother said she feels blessed.
“I’m slightly compromised, but everything else kind of picks up where that part is absent,” Cummings said. “I climb stairs at school and my students are huffing and puffing behind me. I’m a pretty active person so I don’t feel like my life has been compromised. How lucky I am to be able to say that to you.”
Lucky is right. With a survival rate of only 15 percent after five years, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in the U.S., claiming more lives than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined, according to the National Lung Cancer Partnership. It kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer, three times as many men as prostate cancer and is the second leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease.
“The statistics are awful and it’s so stigmatized,” Cummings said. “People don’t live or they’re afraid to talk about it. It’s a cancer that stays in the closet to some extent. But there is hope.”
To raise funds for and awareness of the cancer many unfairly dismiss as a smoker’s disease, Cummings started the Free to Breathe Lung Cancer 5K Rumble Run in Northwest Ohio to benefit the National Lung Cancer Partnership.
The third annual event is set for June 11 starting from Perrysburg Junior High, 550 E. South Boundary St.
New this year, a kids’ fun run, which includes a Mr. Freeze coupon, will begin at 8:30 a.m. The 5K run will start at 9 a.m. and the 5K and 1 mile walks at 9:05 a.m. Registration begins at 7 a.m.
Cost to register online through June 8 is $25 for adults, $10 for children age 12 and younger and $5 for the kids’ fun run. Day-of-race registration is $30 for adults, $15 for children 12 and younger and $10 for the kids’ fun run.
Josie Langsdorf of Monclova, whose left lung was removed last fall, will be among the participants. She walked the event last year after completing her first full week of chemotherapy.
Like Cummings, Langsdorf was shocked by her diagnosis of lung cancer. Also a lifelong nonsmoker, she had intermittent chest pains that made her think she was having a heart attack, but the condition was misdiagnosed over several years as a pulled muscle, severe heartburn and pneumonia.
“Then I was told it was stage three inoperable lung cancer and that I wasn’t going to make it,” Langsdorf said. “What goes through your head is I don’t want to die. I have two kids and I never dreamt in a million years I’d have to tell them I have lung cancer. I said ‘How can I have lung cancer? I’ve never smoked.’ That just goes to show you how little I knew.”
Only 35 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer are current smokers, Langsdorf said. Fifty percent are former smokers and 15 percent are nonsmokers.
“No one talks about it because people assume it’s a smoking disease, but it’s not,” Langsdorf said. “If you have lungs you can get lung cancer. I found that out the hard way.”
Langsdorf’s tumor was pushing against her pulmonary artery so surgeons were at first hesitant to operate, but aggressive chemotherapy and radiation shrunk the tumor enough where surgery was possible.
Langsdorf is hopeful she will be among those who beat the odds – and that research and awareness from funds raised by the Free to Breathe race will help others do the same.
“Lung cancer doesn’t have the following that breast cancer does. It needs attention. It’s the No. 1 cancer killer in America and nobody’s funding it,” Langsdorf said. “Not that I think other cancers are not important, because believe me you don’t want any kind of cancer, but I think this one is overlooked tremendously.”