Columbia resident Michael Osborne couldn't process the news when he was first diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer back in May 2008.
"It was horrifying," he said. "I called my wife, and we cried a lot. I was thinking 'You die of this disease, period.' "
But after nearly a year of treatment, which included multiple surgeries and the removal of a portion of his right lung, Osborne, 57, has been cancer-free since March 2009. Now he is organizing the second annual Breathe Deep Columbia 5K Walk, to raise awareness of the disease, collect funds for lung cancer research and create a community of survivors and their loved ones.
"I hope this goes toward achieving the end of lung cancer in my son's lifetime," he said.
Osborne's son was 10 years old when the family learned of the diagnosis. His grandfather had died of the disease, and his older brother is also a survivor.
"It's impacted all our lives," he said.
The walk is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. April 26 and will start at the downtown Columbia lakefront. Registration is $25 for adults, $15 for lung cancer survivors, seniors and students, and $10 for children under 13 years of age. The proceeds will benefit the LUNGevity Foundation, a national organization dedicated to research for the early detection and treatment of lung cancer.
Registrations and donations can be done online by visiting http://www.lungevity.org/columbia or by calling 312-407-6100.
LUNGevity holds more than 60 fundraising events annually across the county, many lead by volunteers such as Osborne. Diana Aldecoa, director of grass-roots events at the foundation, said the money for lung cancer research is vital.
"Lung cancer is the least-funded cancer out there, yet is has the highest death rate," she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 158,248 people in the United States died from lung cancer in 2010, the most recently available data.
Aldecoa said the stigma surrounding smokers likely contributes to the limited funding available for lung cancer research.
"It's not just smokers," she said. "This could happen to anyone."
Last year, the walk attracted more than 300 participants who raised over $36,000. Osborne has set a goal of raising at least $42,000 this time around.
The event also honors Osborne's oncologist, Dr. Clement Knight, who died in August 2012.
"He was a great man," Osborne said. "He was loved by everyone, and is sorely missed."
Planning the event keeps Osborne involved after his treatment, but it also keeps him busy. Despite being cancer-free for several years, Osborne is still haunted by his ordeal.
"It's always in the back of your mind that the cancer could come back," he said.