After Malverne resident Jennifer Kunz watched both of her parents endure lung cancer in the past two years — both died from the disease less than a year after they were diagnosed — she insisted that they could have lived longer had they received earlier and more comprehensive diagnoses and treatment. Now, in her parents’ memory, Kunz is preparing to run the Long Island Marathon 5K at Eisenhower Park on Saturday to promote lung health through physical activity and to raise awareness of cancer research.
Kunz, 36, who has partnered with the American Lung Association of the Northeast, will participate in Saturday’s race with a team of 13 other runners calling themselves Team Borkowski in honor of her late parents. It will be her first running race of any distance.
Alice and Louis Borkowski, who lived in Valley Stream for 40 years while raising Kunz and her six siblings, were in their early 70s when they found out they had lung cancer. Louis died in April 2012, and Alice died in February.
According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer claims more lives each year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined, but receives significantly less research funding than other types of cancer.
Kunz said she hopes her partnership with the association will contribute to the development of new technologies, research and preventive care that will help diagnose and treat the disease sooner and prolong people’s lives.
“I just wanted to pick something that was so negative and turn it into a positive,” she explained. “I wanted to take something like losing my parents to cancer — specifically lung cancer — I wanted something positive to come out of it.”
When she came up with the idea to run a 5K in support of lung cancer research, a couple of weeks after losing her mother, Kunz asked her friend Jason Lipset, race director of the Long Island Marathon, for advice about organizing a race of her own to pay tribute to her parents. Lipset suggested a less complicated way for her to raise money for her cause: by assembling a team for the L.I. Marathon 5K. The event offers group packages for charities at a discounted rate.