My cousin Paul Kunzinger and I share the same first name and were born within a year of each other in New York City. Paul’s father was my mother’s brother. His family moved to Elmira, NY when we were kids and our families would get together one or two times a year. As we got older, we saw less of each other, especially when I moved to Seattle and him to Texas after college. Paul received a master’s degree in geophysics from Wright State University, and worked as a geophysicist.
During the early 1980s, I was excited that Paul and his future wife, Annie, moved to Seattle and we got to know each other as adults. Not too long after, Paul moved back to Texas but we continued to exchange Christmas cards. Paul and Annie got married and had too little angels: Natalie and Amy.
Natalie was born with cystic fibrosis and Paul and Annie formed a team for the Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk, raising an amazing amount of money each year for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Then, suddenly Paul was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2006. Annie continues the story:
Paul was a non-smoker, who was diagnosed at stage 3B with non-small-cell lung cancer. From the moment he was diagnosed, he worried that he might not be here to help me raise our girls. He cried when he realized that he might not be there to walk them down the aisle on their wedding days. He worried about Natalie and her fight with cystic fibrosis.
So, Paul fought with everything in him. He fought for our future, for our dreams; and he fought for our girls. But his disease was too advanced for surgery, and too advanced for radiation. He did two rounds of traditional chemo, a double blind study, and a biological chemo. But, the cancer kept growing and eventually overpowered his strength and body. Paul’s body died, but his spirit and our memories live on. Cancer can’t touch that.
Natalie and Amy were 8 and 5 when their Daddy died; way too young to lose the most important man in their lives. But they are brave and tough, just like he was. Survivor types.
Paul was a warm, gentle, loving person and a devoted husband and father.
I am dedicating my ride to my cousin who lost his battle with lung cancer in January of 2007 at the age of 49. Cancer kills around 8 million people a year, including about half a million each year in the United States.
Of course, not everything about cancer is bad news. A lot of good progress has been in the areas of treatment, prevention, and early detection. All of the money I raise as part of my ride goes towards early detection research at the organization where I work – Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Please consider sponsoring My Ride to Conquer Cancer. Together, we can make a difference and save lives.