When Anlot Wright, a member of the Puyallup Indian Tribe, considers the many blessings in her life, she counts her mother, Judy Wright, high on the list.
Judy passed away in 2013 after a courageous three-year battle with lung cancer.
Wright’s mother was an honored tribal elder, passing away at age 72, only two years following her retirement after working more than 30 years as the Puyallup Tribe’s director of historic preservation. Wright said her mother for a time served as the tribe’s official historian.
“She had a passion for genealogy, knowing your family, knowing your history,” Wright said. “She herself spent hours upon hours both on work and personal time researching, studying and writing about Native American history. Her mother was Puyallup and her father was a Blackfeet Indian, and she was constantly finding ways to learn more about her lineage.”
Wright’s experience with her mother’s battle with lung cancer reaffirmed many of the lessons her mother taught her over the years that focus on the importance of faith, grace and love.
“Despite the tears and sadness that go along with grief and loss, I focus on the lessons of strength and gratitude that came from my mother. I am beyond blessed to have had her as my mother and teacher,” Wright said.
Wright is focusing all that strength and gratitude from her mother on a new endeavor: putting together “Team Judy Wright” to fundraise for lung cancer research and walking in solidarity against the disease in the eighth annual Free to Breathe 5K run/walk in Tacoma’s Wright Park on Sept. 19.
“I feel it’s important to promote awareness about cancer in general but also about treatment options and research,” Wright said. “Medical advances and technology have changed so much, even since I became a nurse in 1997. Funding research literally has the ability to improve people’s lives and funding today has the ability to improve care in the next five to 10 years and beyond.”
Free to Breathe is a nationwide nonprofit based in Madison, Wisconsin that aims to ensure survival of lung cancer is the expectation, not the exception. The nonprofit’s vision is to double the lung cancer survival rate by 2022. Currently, only 17 percent of patients survive five years. To make this vision possible, the nonprofit makes continued efforts to support lung cancer research; increase the number of lung cancer patients participating in clinical trials and eliminating barriers to treatment; and build and empower the lung cancer community.
Michelle LoFaso, Free to Breathe’s western region coordinator, started working for the organization in February and said her experience advocating for lung cancer patients and seeing first-hand how they’re treated has been “eye opening.”
“I never knew there was such a stigma,” LoFaso said.
The stigma is that many in society consider lung cancer to be a smoker’s disease.
But in fact, LoFaso said, 10 to 15 percent of new lung cancer cases are among people who have never smoked or who quit smoking 20 to 30 years before their diagnosis.
“It can affect anyone,” LoFaso said, and it doesn’t discriminate.
In 2014, the Tacoma Free to Breathe 5K run/walk raised more than $60,000 for lung cancer research. LoFaso said event organizers this year hope to fundraise more than $73,000, which LoFaso said would help finance nearly five months of research.
Team Judy Wright, at press time, had raised $9,000. The $9,000 raised includes $5,000 donated from the Puyallup Indian Tribe in honor of Judy, who also served several terms as a Tribal Council member. Wright said her team hopes to raise $10,000 by Sept. 19, but more would be great.
Team Judy Wright members are Wright, Kristina Kubik, Ruth Gallo, Huey and Logan Tougaw, Chenoa Landry, Regina Logan, Lois Jacobs, Nell Reed and Debbie John.
To donate to Team Judy Wright, visit freetobreathe.org/tacoma and search for “Team Judy Wright.”
Team and individual online pre-registration for the Tacoma Free to Breathe 5K run/walk is through Sept.16 and cost is $30. Registration for participants age 12 and younger is $15 online and $20 for day-of registration. Adult day-of registration is $35.
Fleet Feet Sports in Tacoma will offer an in-store day-of registration pricing for the 5K run/walk from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18.
For more registration information, visit www.freetobreathe.org/tacoma.
Andrew Fickes: 253-472-0341