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November 08, 2002 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-08

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Fight Of
Her Life

LUNGevity, ex-Detroiter

battle lung cancer
nationally, personally.



hen someone says they have breast
cancer or prostate cancer, people
don't immediately ask, "What did
you do to get it?"
But that's what people ask former Detroiter
Melissa "Missy" Zagon, 34, an attorney in
Chicago, when she says she has lung cancer.
People assume lung cancer comes from smok-
ing. They don't know lung cancer is the leading
cause of cancer deaths in the United States or that
it kills more Americans each year than breast,
prostate and colorectal cancers combined. Or that
Zagon, like 14 percent (21,000) of the people
diagnosed every year with lung cancer, has never
Perhaps the reason for this unwarranted stigma
is the public's ignorance about lung cancer. No
organization has been dedicated exclusively to
raising awareness and funds for lung cancer
research — until now.
In November 2000, Zagon met with six other
lung cancer survivors (three are alive today) and
started the LUNGevity Foundation, the first
organization that raises money solely for lung
cancer. Their first fund-raiser in October 2001
raised more money than they ever imagined.
"We budgeted to raise $20,000-$30,000, and
committed $20,000 to the CHEST Foundation
[most doctors involved in lung cancer are mem-
bers of this philanthropic arm of the American
College of Chest Physicians], says Zagon, daugh-
ter of Edward. and Sherri Lumberg of West
With the help of 40 volunteers, the event
grossed $150,000 and 550 people attended. To
date, the new foundation has raised more than
The second annual fall LUNGevity Foundation
benefit will take place Sunday, Nov. 17, at the
Westin O'Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Ill.
The number of volunteers has almost doubled
since last year. The foundation also hired an exec-
utive director, Joel Massel, who is passionate
about finding a cure for the disease as soon as
"Lung cancer is woefully under-funded corn-
pared to other cancers — 170,000 people are

newly diagnosed with lung cancer every year, "
Her metastatic lung cancer was discovered in
Massel says.
September 2000.
Approximately $1,200 is spent on research per
"Despite her situation, she gets up every day
lung cancer death, compared to $11,425 per
and takes her daughter to school. She does the
breast cancer death; $8,190 per prostate cancer
grocery shopping, talks to her family every day
death and $3,350 per colorectal cancer
and spends hours for LUNGevity
Melissa, Hannah Foundation — along with weekly med-
and Glen Zagon
LUNGevity already has partnered
ical treatments. She has a small army of
at Camp
with the American Lung Association to
friends and family supporters you can't
Michigan ia, the
award two doctors $70,000 two-year
believe. And she glows. She gives off an
Universi ty of
grants to search for novel approaches in
energy you can't believe. She drives this
Michiga n
treating lung cancer, Zagon says. She
Alumni Family
adds that the foundation will reach out
A graduate of Harvard Law School,
camp, Ju ly 2002. Zagon learned she had cancer only weeks
to doctors of the CHEST Foundation
with a $50,000 award.
after she left her job as a partner in a pri-
Zagon explains the direction of the
vate law firm to have more time to spend
research: "Traditionally, chemo[therapy] is used to with her family. She became associate general
kill cancer cells, but healthy cells are destroyed as
counsel for a publicly owned company.
well, making it not a successful cure."
Cancer was first discovered in Zagon as lesions
Doctors now are focusing on molecular agents
on her brain and were immediately removed. But
that target particular enzymes or proteins present
doctors found the primary cancer was in her
in cancer cells, she adds. A whole class of new
lungs, and other treatments followed. Only two
drugs can target cancer and keep it from growing, months after her surgery and chemotherapy treat-
a way of controlling the disease until a cure is
ment began, she and six other lung cancer sur-
vivors started the LUNGevity Foundation.
LUNGevity plans to hold a fund-raiser in
The key to Zagon's energy and drive stem from
Detroit next year. In the meantime, five Detroit
her humor and her positive attitude, say her par-
area couples are sponsoring the benefit in
Chicago, says Zagon's mother, Sherri Lumberg.
"I've learned you can't sit around and be upset
"The outpouring of support from the Detroit
about what life's dealt you. There's no point in
Jewish community has been amazing," says
being angry. Enjoy the time you have and don't
Massel. "They are an incredibly giving group of
get caught up in negatives," Zagon says.
"Chemo is hard; being sick is hard. Keeping life
On a personal note, Massel says he draws inspi-
normal for my daughter is hard. But I continue
ration from Zagon. She is married to architect
to have a happy, full life. If I had been asked five
Glenn Zagon and is the mother of Hannah, 4.
years ago if I could handle this, I would have said




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