Lisa Moran was at the top of her physical game during the summer of 2015: She walked almost 40 miles a week as a letter carrier and ran one 5K a week.
After living in Colorado Springs for almost 20 years, she decided to challenge herself by climbing the Manitou Incline, a 2,744-step staircase that goes one mile straight up Mount Manitou.
“I knew it was a challenge,” Moran, 47, said, “and I knew I could do it because of how in-shape I was.”
And she did.
But difficulty breathing on the climb and a persistent cough soon led her to the doctor. That’s when Moran — a non-smoker — was diagnosed with inoperable, incurable, stage IV lung cancer.
But she didn’t let the diagnosis hold her down.
Moran started treatment that September and, just a month later — with her friends, Team Peace, Lungs & Happiness — participated in the American Lung Association in Colorado’s Run the Rocks 5K, a walk/run through Red Rocks Park in Morrison ending on the amphitheater steps.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen with my diagnosis,” she said. “We didn’t know if it would be the last time we would be together because I had been diagnosed with inoperable, incurable, late-stage terminal cancer. But our first experience was so amazing we decided it would be a yearly tradition. It gives me something to focus on and look forward to each year.”
Moran participated in targeted therapy and radiation treatment to her lung and spine and, within eight months of her diagnosis, was told by doctors there was “no evidence of disease.”
But lung cancer is tricky and aggressive and finds ways to resist treatment. The cancer resurfaced and Moran is now on her third round of targeted therapy.
“Two out of three therapy treatments were FDA-approved the year I was diagnosed, which is why lung cancer research funding is so important to me,” Moran explained.
Last year, in addition to her battle with lung cancer, Moran was diagnosed with an unrelated progressive brain disease. In the last year alone, she had brain surgery and suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body and caused her to lose her peripheral vision.
But she refuses to give up.
She regained movement on the left side of her body and instead of leaving acute rehab in a wheelchair, like doctors told her she would, she walked out the front door with a cane.
She got a puppy this summer — a Labrador mix named Laynie — that has become her walking partner.
“She’s like my little trainer,” Moran said.
Now, Moran plans to take that same determination to conquer the Run the Rocks 5K this October for the fourth year since her diagnosis. She’s been training to increase her walking distance and speed, all with the finish line on the Red Rocks amphitheater steps as her motivation.
Her goal is to finish in 75 minutes with her teammates by her side.
“I averaged a 19-minute mile the other day,” Moran said. “I joked that I would have never been excited about a 19-minute mile before. Now the big challenge is that Run the Rocks, the last quarter-mile of the race is ramps and the stairs. That’s going to be a challenge — but I think I’ve got it down.”
For Moran, the Run the Rocks’ finish line has been an epic milestone in her life.
“It means I survived another year with stage IV lung cancer,” Maron said with tears in her eyes. “If I can get to that milestone, it means a lot to me.”
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