Michelle Bowles has participated in charity walks for various causes and in support of friends and family in the past. But never has a walk had the impact of this weekend's Breathe Deep Naperville: A Walk and Rally to Stop Lung Cancer.
"To me personally, the 2011 Lung Cancer Walk and Rally means my husband, Tom, will continue to be with us," she said. "What more reason do I need to help make this walk succeed?"
If you goWhat: Breathe Deep Naperville: A Walk and Rally to Stop Lung Cancer
Why: Proceeds fund lung cancer research
When: Check- in begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5; opening remarks take place at 10 a.m., and the walk steps off at 10:15 a.m. rain or shine
Where: Walkers will meet at the Riverwalk Grand Pavilion, 500 W. Jackson St., Naperville
Details: Routes of .75 or 1.5 miles; accessible for strollers and wheelchairs; pets allowed
Cost: Free, donations accepted and are tax deductible
In the fall of 1999, following a game of touch football in which he was "touched" a little too hard, Tom had some lingering pain that he eventually went to have checked out.
"Maybe he was getting a little too old for football," Bowles said. "Maybe he injured a rib."
The diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer -- which led to chemotherapy, radiation and the removal of his left lung -- rocked the Elmhurst family, but Tom was cleared of his cancer for about two years. Then two small tumors were found -- one in his brain and one in his spine. He was diagnosed at Stage 4.
A combination of radiology and surgery eliminated those tumors and the coast was clear for a few more years.
"His hip started to bother him, and scans showed a tumor in his pelvic bone near the hip socket. That was a disheartening moment," she said. "Since then he's been benefiting from newer treatments that research has discovered."
Tom receives treatments every five weeks, and things continue to look positive. The Bowles believe wholeheartedly that Tom is doing well today because of the support of those who have walked for the past eight years in the annual walk, formerly known as the Naperville Walk and Rally for Lung Cancer.
"We have to keep walking and raising money for lung cancer research to help our families, our friends and our future," Bowles said. "Lung cancer is the most deadly, yet least funded cancer out there today. If we can get 500 people out here and raise $50,000, that will go a long way toward promoting early detection."
The ninth annual walk, offering routes of .75 miles or 1.5 miles, begins with a 9 a.m. check-in and 10:15 a.m. start Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Grand Pavilion, 500 W. Jackson Ave., Naperville. The course is friendly to strollers, wheelchairs, bicycles and pets. There will be a raffle prizes and a silent auction throughout the morning.
The walk and rally was founded by Renee Kosiarek of Naperville nine years ago after her father died of lung cancer.
"This walk has become an annual tradition for many families touched by lung cancer," Kosiarek said. "When we began, there were almost no events or walks for lung cancer. Now, there are walks all across the country. However, we must not stop until we find a cure."