Janelle Wood of Glenview remembers her dad as someone who was very active and always moving.
"He was the type of person who never liked to sit down," Janelle said. So when the Nebraska native was visiting his daughter in Illinois, seeing him in pain just while sitting down was a warning sign for the family. When Tom returned home, he visited the doctor for back pain, thinking it was related to an earlier back surgery. A scan showed spots on his lungs. In May of 2012, Tom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
The news of lung cancer was surprising for Janelle and her family. Tom had smoked for years but quit at age 60. Unfortunately, his lung health had already been compromised. After a hard-fought, eight-month battle with cancer, Tom passed away at age 73.
"Not a day goes by where I don't think of my dad," Janelle said. "I'm the type of person who likes to be in control and fix things, but there was nothing I could do to help him get better."
This summer, Janelle will ride in Respiratory Health Association's CowaLUNGa Bike Tour to honor her father and to fight back against lung disease. She's on "Team Tom" with her two young children, Bronwyn and Payne, and a friend, who will join her in CowaLUNGa's 18-mile ride option.
"I'm healthy and still able to walk, run or ride a bike to support a good cause, so I'm going to do it," said Janelle, who wants to teach this life lesson to her children.
This is Janelle's first time riding in CowaLUNGa Bike Tour yet she is the second highest individual fundraiser. Janelle is determined to not only raise funds for lung cancer, but she wants to raise awareness for lung health in general, especially the harmful effects of smoking.
"Even if people saw my fundraising email and didn't donate, they saw the message not to smoke," Janelle said. "This ride is to raise money, but it's also a reminder to people that lung disease is out there. It's asking them to please stop doing things that are destructive to their health."
CowaLUNGa Bike Tour raises funds and awareness for Respiratory Health Association's lung disease programs, many of which are close to Janelle's heart. The association has several programs that educate youth about the harmful effects of smoking or help adults who want to quit smoking. Respiratory Health Association also addresses chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, among other lung diseases.
In addition to the 18-mile ride, CowaLUNGa bikers have the option of starting in Gurnee, Ill., and riding the 1, 2 or 3-day option. The CowaLUNGa finish line is Whitewater, Wisc. For more information or to register, visit www.cowalunga.org. To offer words of encouragement or to support the Wood family's ride, visit www.lungchicago.org/janellewood.