Northeast native Chris Cagan has participated in the Lung Cancer Research Foundation Philadelphia Free to Breathe Run/Walk every year since losing his father in 2014.
By Kristen Dowd
When Chris Cargan lost his father, Ron, to lung cancer in February 2014, he lost a best friend. However, despite the overwhelming grief the Northeast native experienced after his dad passed away, he knew one thing for certain.
He wanted to honor his father’s memory.
At first, he just wasn’t sure how.
“I was very close with my father,” Cargan, who now lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, said. “Growing up, my dad was always a big smoker. He passed away after a long battle (with lung cancer). He suffered like crazy.”
The year following Ron’s death, Cargan’s wife, Catharine, came across the Lung Cancer Research Foundation’s Philadelphia Free to Breathe Run/Walk. When she showed her husband, Cargan knew this was how he would honor his father — by helping to prevent other families from suffering the same loss he had.
“This was something we started as a family to try to raise money and bring awareness to this organization,” Cargan said. “We started out as a small army — there was only maybe eight of us the first year — and each year we kept growing and growing and growing.”
Cargan’s team, Ron’s Memory, is a bit smaller this year because his and Catharine’s baby boy, Cole Patrick, made an early entrance into the world and the new parents have had to focus on their son’s immediate needs. But just because the team is smaller doesn’t mean it is any less passionate for finding a cure.
After all, that’s the mission of LCRF — to fund research for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and, ultimately, cure for lung cancer. The foundation has provided $31 million in research grants around the globe, and it also focuses on awareness and educational programs.
“Lung cancer is the №1 cause of cancer death worldwide. It’s the least talked about cancer,” Cargan said. “To me, it just needs to be talked about more. The whole month of October, everybody wears pink for breast cancer awareness. Why can’t everyone in the month of November wear white for lung cancer awareness?”
Cargan encourages everyone to come out for the LCRF Free to Breathe Run/Walk, which is set for Sunday, Nov. 4, at Fairmount Park. The 5k run and 1-mile walk step off at 8:30 a.m. There is still time to donate and register here.
“The walk empowers the community to take a stand against lung cancer and raise awareness of the disease that is taking more lives than any other cancer,” Aubrey Rhodes, LCRF vice president of community engagement and outreach, said. “These dollars are providing hope to people with lung cancer, and their families.”
Rhodes said they expect about 2,000 participants on Sunday.
“There’s no fee to participate,” she said, “and we hope anyone who cares about changing the future of lung cancer will join us.”
According to the American Cancer Society, it is projected 154,000 people in the United States alone will die of lung cancer by the end of 2018, and there is only a 20 percent five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with lung cancer.
“The whole lung cancer thing hits home for me because I watched my dad suffer for so long,” Cargan said. “Most people who survive lung cancer, it’s sad to even see them. It’s brutal. It takes a major toll on them.” ••
To learn more about LCRF, visit lungcancerresearchfoundation.org
If you go…
The LCRF Free to Breathe Run/Walk will take place on Sunday, Nov. 4. Check-in begins at 7 a.m. Rally begins at 8 a.m. Run/walk steps off at 8:30 a.m. Awards are at 9:45 a.m.
The run will take place at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park.
For information, or to donate or register, visit lcrf.org/philadelphia