What does "Barb's Beer" have to do with curing non-smoker's lung cancer? Maybe something special, which I'll talk about in a moment.
Non-smoker's lung cancer is a silent killer, not because its methods are mild, but because so few people know about it. An article in The Bellingham Herald ("Lifting the smoke on non-smoker's lung cancer") on Dec. 1, 2013, two days before my wife, Barbara, died of the disease after a six-year battle, told how under-reported this form of cancer is.
More importantly, the story told how little research is being done to find a cure. For every $17 spent on breast cancer research, less than $2 is spent on lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
That's because of the stigma, the article suggested. Often people think that lung cancer victims brought it on themselves by smoking. But up to 15 percent of the 228,000 Americans who get diagnosed with lung cancer each year never smoked.
My wife, Barb, never smoked, and that brings me back to "Barb's Beer."
Not once did Barbara complain about getting cancer. She never said, "why me?" or "life's unfair." She was all about action: "What can I do?" was her mantra. Barb believed that if you refused to give into adversity, then hope never gives out.
Most of all she was always looking for ways to create hope for others.
One of the things she wanted most was to call attention to the exceptional work her oncologist at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Dr. Howard (Jack) West, was doing to find a cure for non-smoker's lung cancer.
Barb was a great runner. Five times she ran the New York Marathon, and in 2000, just before her 50th birthday, she ran Boston. Even in the years when she battled cancer, she continued to run and she gave Dr. West credit for keeping her on the roads. When she couldn't run any longer, she walked, and she gave Dr. West credit for that too, all in the hope that she might call attention to his research efforts.
"We can't control getting cancer," she said. "But we don't have to let cancer control us. Cancer doesn't have to stop us from living fully."
Ah, yes, if we never give in, hope never gives out!
And so a group of us, including our daughter, Caitlin, her husband, Justin, and family and friends, want to pick up on Barb's "action" mantle and add to the hope for Dr. West and his research team.
Barb loved a beer, as we all know. She loved sitting around a table with friends and sharing a beer and great conversation.
And so we are introducing "Barb's Beer," and also creating the Barb's Beer Foundation, the goal of which will be to find restaurants that want to add "Barb's Beer" to their taps so everyone can share conversation and a beer - a "Barb's Beer."
The mission of the foundation will be clear - to raise funds for Dr. West's charity, cancergrace.org, in Barb's name. Barb never gave in, and she never gave up. Now it's our hope that this project will contribute to Dr. West's research to find a cure.
Friends are planning a celebration of Barb's life at the Squalicum Boathouse on March 9, from 2 to 5 p.m. Chuck Hohing, a local brewmaster, and Trish Manley, will share a taste from the first batch of "Barb's Beer."
In addition, LaFiamma, has offered to host the first "Barb's Beer Night" later this spring as a kick-off fundraiser for Dr. West's charity once all the legal issues of commercial production have been worked out.
Will our cause work? We can't predict, but many times I lined up on the starting line of a marathon beside Barb and the sparkle in her eye before the starter's gun spoke this truth: long journeys always begin with a first step.
If "Barb's Beer" can contribute to Dr. West's efforts to find a cure for non-smoker's lung cancer, then that's something we all can toast!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Murphy lives in Bellingham. He created a resiliency institute at Fordham University in New York that offers the Edge4Vets.org program to prepare and connect veterans for jobs.