On November 2, 1931, on a farm in County Mayo, Ireland, Kathleen O’Connor was born.
She was one of seven children, and she learned at a very young age how tough life can be. Her mother died when she was 11 and she, her siblings, and father simply had to do what it takes to make things work.
The family persevered, and Kathleen eventually came to the United States in 1955. Here, she met my Dad, built a family and they lived happily ever after. Until that damn diagnosis.
Today would have been Mom’s 85th birthday. She was married to a loving husband and had six wonderful kids (Mom’s very proud words) and 19 grandchildren that filled her heart with joy every day.
Mom was truly loving life, cheering for her beloved Philadelphia Eagles, attending every school play, and enjoying time with family and friends. She was traveling with Dad, beating the grandchildren in miniature golf, and “walking the boards” in Ocean City, New Jersey. Until that damn diagnosis.
In 2011 we heard the words “lung cancer,” and we were all very scared, as was Mom. However, she never let on and was determined to beat it. She was upbeat, always saying, “Today was a good day.”
She “fought like the dickens” and went to all of her treatments. Her doctor even commented about how feisty Mom was to fight so hard. And as Mom got sicker, she got stronger for us, leaving all of us with a lifelong lesson in dignity and love.
Mom had one final summer down the shore. She said her goodbyes to her wonderful children and gave away her jewelry to each of her daughters and granddaughters. She would miss us desperately because family was EVERYTHING to Mom.
She knew she there were some very special days coming that she would never see. And typical of Mom, she did what she could do to make our lives easier. She also worried about Dad and teased him about his “next wife.” How could someone who was so sick also be so loving and caring?
Sadly, lung cancer won, and the world lost in December of 2011. Mom was a true lady, a wonderful wife, a loving and caring Mom and a doting grandmother. She lived for her family and because of her family, and we knew we simply had to do something in memory of our Amazing Mom.
So, our family has continued to fight for her illness and for anyone diagnosed with lung cancer. We have done so since 2011 when we became “Kathleen’s Krew” in Mom’s honor. Since 2011, we have raised over $80,000 for The Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation to support them as they fight against lung cancer. Mom met Bonnie and loved her, and she was very proud we would continue this fight. Bonnie is nationally recognized for her work and is proud to be part of the “Cancer Moonshot”.
Lung cancer needs more attention. Consider these three facts:
- Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer, more than colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.
- The 5-year survival rate for people diagnosed with lung cancer is less than 18%
- Nearly 80% of newly diagnosed patients either quit smoking decades ago (like Mom) or never smoked.
So, I wrote this first blog and will be writing more blogs for the next nine months because we are doing something big in 2017 to change the course of lung cancer. I will be going on a bike ride from Philadelphia to San Francisco with the help and support of many friends and family, and together we will “fight like the dickens” to make a difference for lung cancer patients and their families.
So I welcome your ideas and your support, and will create my next blog in two weeks, once I get back from The Emerald Isle!