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American Lung Association prepares for 2021 Fight for Air Climb

The Fight For Air Climb is happening Saturday, May 15 rain or shine at Principal Park.

Lung cancer kills more people in the United States than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

This weekend, community members are coming together for the traditional Fight for Air Climb hosted by the American Lung Association in Iowa.

It's going to look a little different being at Principal Park, but the message is still the same.

Maria Steele, who has worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner, has always taken care of everyone else under her husband noticed something wasn't right.

"I had a persistent cough, so at the urging of my husband, he said, 'You got to go get it checked out,'" she said.

Steele was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer because it had metastasized to her brain

"When I was first diagnosed, [my doctor] said 'The average person in your situation lives a year' and to myself I was like, 'No way. No way. I don't feel that bad,'" Steele said. "And faith has a lot to do with it."

16 months later, she is feeling better than ever and now wants to share her story to inspire others

"I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful health care oncology team."

And it's not just about finding joy, but spreading it.

"You can do everything right, and you still can get cancer," said Dr. Richard Deming with MercyOne Des Moines. "And she has taken this on. Where she's gone through her cancer treatment, she is living with incurable cancer. And even in the face of living with incurable cancer, she is finding joy every day. And she is spreading joy every day."

Registration for the Fight for Air Climb is open until noon on Friday. You can donate on behalf of a participating individual or team here.

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While smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, that's not what caused Steele's illness. 

Instead, she has strong proof that radon gas in her home was the culprit. It's a big problem in the Midwest, and especially in Iowa.

"So radon is is very prevalent in the state of Iowa. So it's the whole state actually is a Zone 1, which means that 50% of homes have to be affected by radon," Steele said. "So as a nurse practitioner, I'd heard of radon, but I had no idea the prevalence and the danger."

"Of all the causes of lung cancer, the one that we know that was definitely in her environment was radon," Deming said. "And so i think it is logical that that is the likely cause of her lung cancer."

For about $10, you can pick up a radon test kit at most hardware stores. And installing a radon mitigation system in your home isn't hard, there are plenty of installers out there. 

It can be expensive, but it's hard to put a price on your life.

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