Smoking cigarettes should not condemn someone to a painful death, said Laura Holmgrain, whose husband died of lung cancer in 2009.
Her husband Bruce, who was diagnosed at 55, had not smoked in 20 years.
Like many men of his generation, the master bench jeweler did not a wear a protective mask at his Bethesda workplace. After being diagnosed with end stage cancer, Bruce learned people in his industry are prone to the disease.
“I think from the moment that Bruce got sick, he felt a bit abandoned by society,” Holmgrain. “Every single one of us has done something we’re not proud of with our body. Ask any college student.”
Before he died, Bruce asked his wife, a mother of two, to help bring awareness to the plight of people with lung cancer. Holmgrain, who lives in Sterling, Va., is fighting back with Breathe Deep 3 Day, a 27.5-mile walk Friday to Sunday.
The walk begins in Bethesda at the store where she met her husband, Dealers in Dreams at 7703 Woodmont Ave.
“He was always thinking of other people,” she said.
While some volunteer at homeless shelters during the holidays, Bruce would gather folks to cook and distribute hot meals at other times during the year.
Proceeds from Breathe Deep will benefit Lungevity, a nonprofit that raises money for lung cancer research. Funding comes from grants and private donations, said Sammi Hawkins, grassroots events manager for Lungevity.
“We’re very happy to have her,” Hawkins said of Holmgrain. “She came out of nowhere, and she’s done this with very little planning. It’s only going to get bigger.”
So far 21 people have signed up for the race. Holmgrain already surpassed her fundraising goal of $5,000, but hopes to raise more.
Lung cancer is a silent killer, often symptomless until the final stages, according to Lungevity’s website. It is the leading cause of cancer death, killing more people than breast, prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers combined.
But lung cancer lags far behind breast cancer in federal funding. Federal funding for research provides $24,000 per breast cancer death and approximately $2,500 per lung cancer death, Hawkins said.
The stigmatization of lung cancer is a common feeling, she said. Her husband died of lung cancer at 39 years old.
“It’s not like people throw parades for you like with breast cancer,” she said. “It’s very, very different.”
To donate or register for the walk, go to http://events.lungevity.org/site/TR?fr_id=3410&pg=entry.