Run Amuck with the Duck brings attention to non-smoking women with lung cancer

Runners take off at the start of the third annual Run Amuck with the Duck 5k run and walk on Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 7:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 7:19 p.m.

Many people in their 20s are too busy complaining about their parents to think about what it would be like to lose them. But for Ginny Lawrimore, 29, of Gainesville, that message hit home when her mother, Janet, was diagnosed two years ago with non-small-cell lung cancer.


Race Details:

Run Amuck with the Duck 5K race is Saturday at 9 am at North Florida Regional Medical Center. Registration is at 8 a.m. and costs $30. You also can make an online donation here:

Potential symptoms of non-small cell lung cancer

According to Dr. Lucio Gordon of NFRMC, if any of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks, get checked out: Coughing up blood, chest and/or chest wall pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, weight loss.

Lawrimore found a group of people who understood her at last year's Run Amuck with the Duck 5K run/walk for lung cancer awareness at North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville.

“Most people my age don't have a parent who's ill and don't know what to say,” Lawrimore said. “With the 5K, everybody knows exactly what you are going through.”

This year, Lawrimore has organized one of the 20-some teams for Saturday's race, which marks its fourth year.

Each year, the race has brought in between $40,000 and $60,000, which funds lung

cancer research sponsored by an organization based in California called the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.

This year, $37,520 has been raised so far, and the goal is $50,000, said Caren Gorenberg, the founder of the race and its co-organizer. Gorenberg named the race after the stuffed duck her son gave her shortly after her own diagnosis with non-small-cell lung cancer in 2006.

Gorenberg and co-organizer Sandy Solomon are emblematic of a growing trend of lung cancer diagnoses in female non-smokers. Their third organizer, Dianne Caridi, who died last year of NSCLC at age 42, and in whose memory this year's race will be run, was also a non-smoker — and a nine-time collegiate All-American swimmer.

NSCLC is increasingly hitting non-smokers and is distinct from small-cell lung cancer, which is most commonly associated with smoking.

NSCLC is believed to be caused at least in part by genetic mutations that may or may not be caused by environmental factors such as exposure to radon and other contaminants.

Dr. Lucio Gordon, an oncologist at North Florida Regional Medical Center and the chair of the race, cautioned, “I don't think we have an epidemic of lung cancer in non-smokers.”

Gordon added that research on NSCLC is still underfunded, which is why efforts like the race are important to endorse.

While epidemiological data doesn't necessarily support an increased incidence of lung cancer in female non-smokers (as opposed to men), the anecdotal rise in NSCLC overall might be due to earlier and more accurate diagnoses, Gordon said — “the bias of time and technology.”

But the trail to a diagnosis is often uncertain, and the outcome almost always shocking. Allison Pauole, a 34-year-old electrocardio technician in Waldorf, Md., had back pain she thought was from either pushing around her twin baby girls in their stroller or the big ultrasound machine at work, she said.

A scan revealed “fibroids” that turned out to be tumors that already had invaded her reproductive system. Pauole tested positive for a genetic mutation called ALK, which responds well to a targeted therapy called Crizotinib that the FDA approved a few months after Pauole's diagnosis.

The standard chemotherapy Pauole started off with ended up being effective, though, and she has been disease-free for more than two years.

“It's kind of crazy … since I was diagnosed I've come across 3-4 people in my age bracket who are non-smokers, so it's concerning,” Pauole said, adding: “We're all about two years apart in our treatments; we are mentors to each other. It's kind of a cool little ring that we have. You have someone to relate to.”

On Saturday, a lot of local runners and walkers also will find people to relate to — whether they are battling cancer themselves, are survivors, or are family members and friends.

“When I got to North Florida Regional Medical Center, there were hundreds of people, and they were all there for the same reason,” Lawrimore said. “I was so excited to have that outlet for showing my support for my mom and her battle.”

Lawrimore's mother, also a non-smoker, is now disease-free, eating an “anti-cancer” diet and counting her blessings, Lawrimore said. “She's done everything she could possibly do to fight it.”

Lawrimore will walk in her honor and raise awareness for a disease that “absolutely anyone can get,” she said. “The mainstream thought is ‘Don't smoke and you won't get lung cancer.' That's just not true.”

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