Back in 2009, my mother-in-law, Sue Fosco, was diagnosed with lung cancer. It came as a huge shock to our family. Sue was a very healthy oncology nurse and non-smoker. At first, she thought she had a cold or sinus infection, but it wouldn’t go away, so she went in for further testing. The people administering the tests were her colleagues and friends at the Edward Cancer Center in Naperville. Sue was diagnosed with Stage IV bronchoalveolar adenocarcinoma in both lungs.
Sue was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, friend, and nurse. When she passed away in 2011, my husband Dominic and I were in a fog. The day she passed, LUNGevity found us through an email from the Carlinsky family. Dominic worked with Mark Carlinsky, whose wife Lisa passed away from lung cancer in 2008. Lisa had been Sue’s patient at Edward Cancer Center. It seemed like there were a lot of connections drawing us to LUNGevity. We looked into LUNGevity and realized it was a great organization, so we set up a page for family and friends who wanted to donate money toward lung cancer research. In November, we decided to walk in Breathe Deep DuPage to help keep her memory alive. We started a team in Sue’s memory, named “Steps for Sue.” Our team has been walking ever since.
In 2013, the event coordinator Michelle Bowles was looking for someone to be a co-chair for Breathe Deep DuPage. Mark recommended me and Michelle sent me an email. As I read the email, I thought, this is my next calling. Michelle and I co-chaired the event in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, Michelle was ready to take a step down, so I became the coordinator.
Sue’s loss has inspired me to become involved with LUNGevity Foundation and to raise awareness to fight the stigma surrounding lung cancer. I want the question “Was she a smoker?” to disappear. No one deserves to get lung cancer. I want people to know that lung cancer isn’t just a smoker’s disease. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.
The most rewarding part of being a volunteer event coordinator is seeing people come to the walk every year. We have had many teams walking for many years and for other teams, it’s their first year. I want the event to be meaningful and impactful for each team that walks. It’s so important for people to come and see survivors and for people to celebrate the memory of the person they’ve lost. Seeing more survivors at the walks each year shows us that what we are doing is making a difference. I’m happy that more people are living longer with lung cancer because of early detection and targeted therapies and the work LUNGevity is doing.
Sue Fosco with her granddaughters
Melissa with her family