ROCHESTER, Ill. (WCIA)–A Springfield native is turning her story into a message hoping to get others involved in a cause to put an end to the type of cancer she battled.
29 year-old Nici Ropac lived an overall healthy life believing she only suffered from a bad bout of allergies every year.
“In high school, I would get sick every spring. Doctors kept telling me it was bronchitis. So I’d get antibiotics so most of the time it would get better and it would be fine. When I got to college it would take a little bit longer for me to feel better after the rounds of antibiotics,” said Ropac.
She decided to get it checked out. “I needed a chest x-ray so I had one and on my way home, they called and told me I needed to come back because they found something. The next day they did a chest cat scan, they found a cyst the size of my fist in my right lung.”
It turned out to be lung cancer. Ropac was only 23 when she got the diagnosis, leaving her in shock. “I never smoked. I was never around smoke, my parents don’t smoke, my grandparents don’t smoke.”
Although smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, doctors say it can be caused by other circumstances. “It’s uncommon but it’s not rare. Up to 15 percent of lung cancer patients maybe were never smokers so yes, it certainly does occur,” said Krishna Roa, SIU School of Medicine associate professor of oncology.
Six years later, Ropac says she still feels pain occasionally but she is healthy enough to participate in one the biggest awareness events for lung cancer in Central Illinois.
“I’ve got two little kids, boys that are three and one years old. I don’t want this to happen to them and there not be research and funds out there if anything should happen to them. I wanted to bring more awareness to it and the climb I guess was my way of doing that,” Ropac said.
The Fight for Air Climb has a goal of raising $165,000 for lung cancer research. Organizer are about halfway there right now. You can donate here. The climb takes place February 6th at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre.