Benefit will promote lung cancer research and awareness

As a thoracic nurse nav­ig­at­or at Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter, Caryn Vad­seth is an ad­voc­ate for people with lung can­cer.

The cause got a lot more per­son­al in Feb­ru­ary 2012, when her fath­er was dia­gnosed with lung can­cer. Jerry Her­tkorn un­der­went ra­di­ation and chemo­ther­apy treat­ments, but died of the dis­ease four months later. He was 71.

Last year, Vad­seth or­gan­ized a con­tin­gent of fam­ily mem­bers, friends and cowork­ers to par­ti­cip­ate in Free to Breathe, a 5K Run/Walk and 1-Mile Walk sponsored by the Na­tion­al Lung Can­cer Part­ner­ship’s Pennsylvania chapter.

“I was already mo­tiv­ated, and now it’s on a more per­son­al level to get out there and spread the word,” she said of the fight against lung can­cer.

On Sunday, Herk’s Her­oes will again take part in Free to Breathe, hop­ing to raise money to pro­mote lung can­cer re­search and aware­ness.

Each year in the United States, more than 228,000 people are dia­gnosed with lung can­cer, and al­most 160,000 die of the dis­ease. Lung can­cer ac­counts for about 27 per­cent of all can­cer deaths, and takes more lives than breast, pro­state and colon can­cers com­bined.

The five-year sur­viv­al rate for lung can­cer is just 16 per­cent. Only 15 per­cent of lung can­cer pa­tients are dia­gnosed be­fore the dis­ease has spread.

Fed­er­al re­search fund­ing for lung can­cer is far be­low that of breast, pro­state and colorectal can­cers, based on deaths per dis­ease.

Smoking is the lead­ing cause of lung can­cer. Her­tkorn was an ex-smoker. So was his fath­er, who died of the dis­ease.

Oth­er risk factors in­clude ex­pos­ure to radon, lung scar­ring from tuber­cu­los­is and ge­net­ic pre­dis­pos­i­tion.

There are vari­ous symp­toms. For Her­tkorn, it was short­ness of breath. A chest X-ray re­vealed a spot on his lungs that was ul­ti­mately con­firmed as can­cer­ous.

“If you have lungs, you can get lung can­cer,” Vad­seth said.

The eighth an­nu­al Free to Breathe event will take place Sunday at Me­mori­al Hall in Fair­mount Park, at 4231 Av­en­ue of the Re­pub­lic (North Con­course Drive).

Re­gis­tra­tion and check-in are at 7 a.m., fol­lowed by a rally and present­a­tion of fun­drais­ing awards at 8. The run starts at 8:30, with the walk kick­ing off a few minutes later. There will be a kids dash at 9:30 be­fore an awards present­a­tion.

Vad­seth de­scribed her dad, who was a re­tired sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager, as a fam­ily man and a people per­son. He and his wife Car­ol were sweet­hearts at Car­din­al Dougherty High School. He was a mem­ber of Dougherty’s first gradu­at­ing class in 1959.

The Her­tkorns raised six chil­dren in Lawndale. They have 10 grand­chil­dren.

Vad­seth is act­ive with the Na­tion­al Lung Can­cer Part­ner­ship, trav­el­ing to Texas last month for a sum­mit that urged at­tendees to ad­voc­ate for lung can­cer by rais­ing money and lob­by­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

“He’s greatly missed,” Vad­seth said of her dad, “but I’m fight­ing for him and all my pa­tients.”

To make a dona­tion, go to par­ti­cip­­to­­vad­seth1 or par­ti­cip­­to­­er­oes1

For more in­form­a­tion, vis­it free­to­ ••

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