FARMINGTON — The second annual “E-Race the Stigma” walk/5K event is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 4.
Registration begins at 9 a.m. in the North Dining Hall of Olsen Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington. Runners will leave South Street at 10 a.m. followed by walkers 10 minutes later, Tricia Cote said.
Cote, the founder of the New England Lung Cancer Project, started the event last year in Livermore Falls. It was an effort to help make people aware of the many factors that can cause this disease and to help reduce the stigma that it's a “smoker's disease.”
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Although based in Vermont, Cote a Livermore Falls native and UMF graduate, is focusing her efforts on Maine because it has higher rates of lung cancer than the other six New England states, she said.
The color white for lung cancer doesn't receive the recognition that pink does for Breast Cancer in October. There's less exposure and ultimately less funding for research and treatment.
Many people associate lung cancer with smoking but there are other environmental factors such as radon in the home and air pollution from mills, she said. There's a pressure on victims. They feel blamed by society for choosing to smoke, whether they smoked or not, when they have lung cancer, she said.
Cote started the New England Lung Cancer Project after losing her parents, Raymond and Betty Richard, to the disease. Her father died in 2001 when she was 23 and her mother in 2009 when she was 31. Although each had previously smoked, they quit years before their death. They had different types of cancer but neither was caused by smoking, she said.
There were other potential factors to consider. Her father worked in a paper mill. The couple renovated homes, perhaps exposing them to radon or asbestos, she said.
According to Cote's blog on the New England Lung Cancer Project website, www.nelcp.org, when people learn of her parents' deaths, most tend to first ask, “did they smoke?”
After grieving, Cote along with help from her husband, Casey, started the nonprofit New England Lung Cancer Project governed by five board members.
Their goal is to educate people about lung cancer, provide a better understanding and eliminate the stigma. This involves raising funds with a future goal to raise enough to give to lung cancer patients who are going through a financial hardship during treatment. They also want to provide a support network and fund medical research, she said.
This year they are starting with public service announcements, information pamphlets and the walk/5k event here and other events in Vermont. They had a booth at the Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston earlier this month and people were receptive to the information, especially women who are subject to different cancers, have different symptoms and respond differently to treatment, she said.
They had a good response to Sunday's event with people registering online. Some are taking pledges. They are asking people to raise at least $50 but realize the event is near. There is a $25 registration fee.
A 50/50 raffle is held and snacks provided after participants finish. From South Street, they travel up Main Street to Broadway, up Perham, over to Middle and back to South Street.
For more information, visit www.nelcp.org or or its Facebook page, she said.