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Waukesha woman has personal link to Fight For Air Climb

CREATED Mar. 20, 2013

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  • Brian Gotter reports that 60-year-old Karen Larson works out at Gold's Gym every free minute she gets. Video by wtmj.com

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WAUKESHA - Sixty-year-old Karen Larson works out at Gold's Gym every free minute she gets.

"When I retire I'm gonna be a gym rat or work at a gym," she laughs.

Health and fitness are very important to Karen. She lost both her parents to lung cancer--her father nine years ago, and her mom just a year ago. She explains, "Both my parents smoked. They owned a bar, and then they had a supper club, so they always had second-hand smoke."

It's hard for Karen to look at a family picture--the last time her entire family was together, but she knows her parents are at peace.

"They had a good life. This is just part of the process," Karen says.

She honors them by taking part in the "Fight For Air Climb" every year. Karen recalls, "My mom was always proud I did this climb, in memory of my dad."

The climb brings back some tough memories for Karen. "My mom... just watching her be in a wheelchair the last 3 months, and having no energy, having a hard time breathing... it's hard. You want to give her your breath but you can't."

Dr. Elizabeth Gore is a Professor of Radiation Oncology at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. She says lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death in men and women, but she explains, "Fortunately, we are seeing more people that are diagnosed at earlier stages where there's more treatment, and also a lot of new research going into it."

Dr. Gore suggests getting screened if you are a longtime smoker.

"Some people will be screened for lung cancer, and right now there's a lot of screening programs based on some positive studies," she explains.

Karen is looking forward to joining thousands of others this Saturday for the climb, and is passing the tradition on to her grandkids. "Now I have 2 grand children who have asthma, take inhalers, and one of my grandaughters did it last year."

She adds, "It's exciting to do this, it really is!"

Online registration for the climb is over, but you can still call and register, or sign up at the event.