Family honors mother by supporting cancer research

Nov. 7, 2013
Marylin Liptak
Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Carley Dangona

SOUTHWICK – The Liptak family is celebrating Lung Cancer Awareness Month to honor the memory of their mother, Marylin, and to raise awareness that many non-smokers are afflicted with the disease.

One year after her diagnosis, the Marylin lost her battle with lung cancer at the age of 71, the weekend after her 50th wedding anniversary. She never smoked, nor did she ever work in an environment where others did.

According to daughter Amy Caruso, the etiology of her mom’s diagnosis was never found. She and her siblings, Daniel Liptak and Sharon Marcyoniak, are collaborating with the National Lung Cancer Partnership (NLCP) to raise awareness and funds for the cause via various community-based fundraisers.

“It’s startling how many people get it and pass away. It [the survival rate] hasn’t measuredly improved since the 1970s,” Caruso said, adding that lung cancer research has helped to prolong life.

According to the NLCP, for every 160,000 deaths from lung cancer there is only $1,450 spent on federal research funding per death. In contrast, for 40,000 deaths due to breast cancer, $20,800 is spent on federal research funding per death.

Caruso said when people learned of her mother’s diagnosis they automatically assumed she was a smoker. She believes that the stigma that the diagnosis is self-inflicted is why people shy away from supporting the research of lung cancer.

“Anyone can get lung cancer,” she said. “We use this month as an opportunity to raise awareness [of this fact],” Caruso said, adding that her family’s philosophy is “everyone deserves empathy and everyone deserves support.”

The NLCP states, “If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) lists exposure to Radon gas, secondhand smoke, cancer-causing agents in the workplace such as diesel fuel exhaust or asbestos, air pollution and gene mutation as factors for non-smokers having lung cancer.

“Why Lung Cancer Strikes Nonsmokers,” an article published in October on the ACS website, states, “Unfortunately, a perception that patients contributed to their own illness by smoking harms both smokers and nonsmokers with lung cancer. Lung cancer expert Joan Schiller, MD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, co-authored a study measuring public attitudes about lung cancer.”

The article continues, “The study found that 70 percent of participants had a negative attitude about lung cancer. By comparison, only 22 percent had a negative attitude about breast cancer.”

Caruso said, “It’s important to celebrate those you love before and after [they are gone].” From the experience, she learned that her family “is all really capable of pulling together and the importance of celebrating the good times.”

Caruso added, “She never went to a doctors appointment alone. We felt that it wasn’t [only] her burden. Everybody did their part.”

In recognition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts, 538 College Highway, is selling chocolate frosted donuts with a white chocolate ribbon (made by Caruso herself) and will donate 25 cents from the sale of each to the NLCP.

The Liptak family will host the 3rd annual Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Tasting event to support lung cancer research on Dec. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Tucker’s Restaurant, 625 College Highway. Tickets cost $20 and are available at the restaurant or online at

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