By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – On Saturday, June 2, hundreds of people will walk at the Denver Botanic Gardens-Chatfield Farms Littleton to raise awareness and money to fight lung cancer. Among them will be a woman who was devastated to lose her father to the disease.

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of men and women in the U.S. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

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Yet, according to the LUNGevity Foundation, only 6% of federal government dollars spent on cancer research are spent on lung cancer research. Samantha Taglienti says it’s time to erase the stigma.

“Almost always when I tell someone that my father passed from lung cancer their first question is “Oh, was he a smoker?”,” Taglienti told CBS 4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

The answer is no. Orlando Taglienti never smoked. He was a health-conscious, 63-year- old dentist. Daughter Samantha says he had flu-like symptoms. A chest x-ray revealed cancer.

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“For it to come out of nowhere like that, and it was already Stage IV, was pretty shocking,” said Taglienti.

Her father was diagnosed in January 2014. He died two months later.

“He was not ready for that. He did not want to leave us,” said Taglienti.

Now, in his memory, “Lanny’s Ladies”, his wife and three daughters, team up every year for the LUNG FORCE walk. They honor him by raising money for research and working to erase the stigma surrounding lung cancer.

“Sometimes people like to put it into the box of smoking because that means that I’m safe and I don’t have to worry about it. The fact is really nobody is safe from lung cancer,” said Ellen Penrod, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Colorado.

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“Only about 17% of people with lung cancer live to the 5-year mark, so we don’t have those survivors who are telling their story,” Penrod added.

This year at the LUNG FORCE walk, Samantha Taglienti will speak for her late father. She’ll fight the stigma surrounding lung cancer and push for a future with more funding for research.

“Any cancer, no matter what it is, deserves that research … deserves an equal opportunity to have survivors,” she said.

The annual LUNG FORCE walk is on Saturday, June 2 at the Denver Botanic Gardens-Chatfield Farms in Littleton. More information about the walk and registration is available at lungforce.org/walk.

For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit its website.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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