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Miles for Marc keeps moving

  • October 11 2017

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    Miles for Marc keeps moving

    By Rachael Kuchler

    I’ll be honest, I struggled a bit writing this. Nearly 2.5 years have gone by since Marc passed away, but the pain of this disease is still there for our family. The anger that we have about it taking such a bright light from this Earth still sparks within us. The reality that, despite making great strides in terms of medical advancements for this disease, we are still so far from a cure downright infuriates us. And the fact that since 1975, the survival rate in lung cancer is still far less than 20%... well, that is just absolutely devastating.  

    We can develop cars that park themselves, phones that order groceries to be brought to our doorstep via voice command, and yet we still cannot cure this disease? Why is that? While I’m certainly no professional when it comes to lung cancer, as a caregiver for someone with stage 4 lung cancer you tend to become all too familiar with medical terms, statistics, and facts. I recall a statistic, albeit from 2012, which revealed that the amount of money spent per death from lung cancer was nearly 10 times less than that of other cancers. Now, don’t get me wrong, all cancer is bad cancer. But why is it that the funding for this disease is so dramatically different? Why can’t we get lung cancer the funding it desperately deserves to inch our way even closer to a cure? The obvious stigmas surrounding the disease are, of course, a barrier. But, I agree with Dr. Apar Ganti who credits the biggest lack of funding for this disease to the paucity of long-term survivors who can raise lung cancer awareness in the society and spearhead a following of passionate advocates for increased funding support. How horribly ironic.

    We’ve seen it firsthand. Since Marc passed away in 2015, participation on our team at the annual Philadelphia Free to Breathe Run/Walk dropped by 54% in 2016. Now, don’t get me wrong, we still show up big on event day and we still see support in other ways at our own Miles for Marc events. But we can’t deny the fact that without our fearless leader, we have lost a bit of traction. And we’re not alone. I’ve seen teams come and go for various reasons. I’ll never know why teams leave the Free to Breathe community; nor will I pass judgment on anyone who decides to shut the door and close out the thing that took their loved one away from them. Additionally, I acknowledge that their absence at Free to Breathe events doesn’t mean that they aren’t still, in some capacity, advocating in memory of their loved one. But for our family, we want to step up in Marc’s absence. We want to regularly show the survivors at these events that there are still people fighting hard for them, hoping that it gives them the same motivation it gave Marc…to keep looking to the future. And as hard as it is, I want to be the voice that Marc can no longer be. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that it angers and upsets me at times. There are some days that I, too, want to close the door on lung cancer, forget about its entire existence, and eliminate it from my life all together. But then I think about the $100,000 we raised over a three-year period for Free to Breathe with Marc at the helm. The smile it brought to Marc’s face to see the support pour in from family, friends, and coworkers. I regain hope. And I remember that we turned our small but mighty team into our own nonprofit that continues to carry on Marc’s legacy in a big way.

    The fact of the matter is, lung cancer isn’t like other cancers. It accounts for more deaths than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. More deaths = fewer survivors. And with fewer survivors, we simply lack the “connection.” But despite that truth, we need to keep fighting. No, it won’t bring our loved one back. But it could prevent another family from feeling the same sadness and pain that we have experienced. That’s why we engage our youngest advocates, Marc’s nieces and nephews. We teach them at a young age that the best thing they can do to honor the memory of their uncle is to keep raising funds for this disease; to keep advocating. We teach them that compassion for others is an invaluable character trait that they should share. Every year on their Uncle Marc’s birthday, they host a fundraiser (think a lemonade stand for all things “orange” in honor of our team colors). In doing so, they keep his legacy alive and spread awareness of the disease. They keep our support network growing. They create other mini-advocates in their friends. They are the ones who will ensure that on the 50-year anniversary of Marc’s passing, that their Uncle Marc still has a voice. And most importantly, that lung cancer still has a voice.

    So, fellow advocates, don’t ever stop. We simply cannot make a change in this disease if there is no voice for it. On your toughest days, remember this, “he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” For a long time we all wondered “how” we could go on without Marc here. But he is our reason, the “why” we live for. The “why” we all need to live each day to the fullest, with compassion, and with purpose. So consider your “why” and know that you aren’t alone. A lot of us out there are wondering “how” we’re managing without them. But that’s the good thing about the Free to Breathe community —it provides us strength in numbers.

    Miles for Marc is a dedicated group of lung cancer advocates comprised of family and friends of Marc Kuchler, who at 28 years old was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Marc’s 40-month battle against this disease ended in February 2015, when he was just 31. 



  1. Pam 01:15pm, 10/26/2017

    I feel your pain.  My husband passed away in May of 2014 from Lung Cancer.  We found out the devastating news July 2013, just one week after our son left for Army boot camp(that was a horrible phone call 6 weeks later to tell your child) and two weeks before our 25th wedding anniversary.  He lived the average 10 months after diagnosis and left 3 children ages 14-22 and a wife simply lost.  Our oldest was in college in her senior year (he did get to see her graduate), our son only got to see him twice, due to the Army life and our youngest daughter had to watch her dad dwindle, too much for someone 14 years old.  Don’t mean to ramble.  It is such a horrible disease with very little advancement.

  2. Nancy 02:19pm, 10/27/2017

    Rachael - I applaud your continued support for this devastating disease. You and Marc are extraordinary human beings. You have already made a huge difference, and continue to inspire me as well as others. I told your story today at a Rotary Club meeting in La Jolla as we are gearing up for our LungForce walk in San Diego. You are so right - we just can’t stop. Thanks for everything you do!

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