Kelcey Harrison, center, and Jill Costello, right, were lifelong friends, seen here with Gianna Toboni on a grade school field trip. [Photos courtesy of Kelcey Harrison]
A couple of Saturdays ago, while you were watching college football or out buying a Christmas tree, 24-year-old Kelcey Harrison was running the last 20 miles of a 3,500-mile "jog" from Times Square to her hometown of San Francisco.
Harrison, who graduated from Harvard, where she played soccer, is young, healthy and motivated. By the time she completed The Great Lung Run, she had logged 30 miles nearly every day for four months straight.
Harrison ran because she can. And because her lifelong friend Jill Costello -- who was also once young and healthy and motivated -- cannot.
On June 6, 2009, Costello, then a junior at Cal and a member of the crew team, was diagnosed with lung cancer. The disease was already at stage 4 and had spread; she was given about a year to live. Costello spent that year finishing school, earning Pac-10 Athlete of the Year honors, acting as vice president of the Panhellenic Council and doing tireless work for lung cancer charities -- all while undergoing chemotherapy.
In May 2010, doctors told Costello she could not be cured; all they could do was try to make her last few weeks more comfortable. In those last weeks she walked across the stage at graduation (with a 4.0 GPA) and helped Cal to a second-place finish at the NCAA crew championships.
"Jill was really strong," Harrison said. "She was really confident that she was gonna be the one to beat stage 4 lung cancer. She was very convincing in her argument; even at the very end we really believed she was going to be the miracle."
Costello died June 24, 2010.
Great Lung Run
No. 1 Cancer Killer
A young, vibrant nonsmoker, Costello was the last person anyone would expect to get lung cancer. But 20 percent of the more than 20,000 women diagnosed with the disease each year have never smoked. Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States, taking more lives than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined.
Despite the staggering stats, there are no pink ribbons worn or mustaches grown in the name of lung cancer. There is, instead, a stigma that the disease is self-inflicted; an illness brought on by a life of smoking. Research and funding is limited and the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 15.5 percent; it hasn't budged in 40 years. More than half of all people with lung cancer die within a year of being diagnosed.
Costello hung on for 18 extra days.
So Harrison runs to raise money and awareness about the disease that took her friend's life. The Great Lung Run has raised more than $150,000 for Jill's Legacy, an advisory board to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, the charity Costello worked closely with in the months before her death.
Darby Anderson, the director of Jill's Legacy, said at first she didn't think Harrison would follow through with her plan to run across the country.
"I thought she was nuts," said Anderson, who was a sorority sister and close friend of Costello's. "I told her to call me back when she had an actual plan and then we would take her project from there. … [That] April I saw her in D.C. when I was there for our Jog for Jill Georgetown and she had a website, route, places to stay and was ready to actually make this happen. I was blown away."
Harrison was up early every morning to jog her 30 miles, taking a day off every 10 days or so to let her body rest. She took a break to walk every once in a while, but never stopped moving until the 30 miles were finished.
"It's just like getting up and going to work," Harrison said. "Sure there are days where it wasn't the first thing I wanted to be doing but that was my routine and my job at the time, so just gotta get up and do it."
Harrison's not sure how, but after 3,500 miles, she feels OK.
"I don't have an answer as to why I'm holding up so well," Harrison said. "It's a mystery to me just like everyone else. … People said they think I have the right motivation and someone special looking over me."
Harrison ran solo for the first six weeks of her trip, pushing her belongings in a jogging stroller and staying with hosts who would pick her up at the end of each run and drop her off the next morning where she left off. Eventually one of her friends from Jill's Legacy joined her on the road in a donated car, driving her to and from hotels along the way.
(The donated car, by the way, was a gold Chrysler 300 with 22-inch rims. When their first donated car lost its power steering the girls ended up at Oscar's Auto Salvage in New Mexico, hoping to sell it and rent one for the remainder of the trip. Instead, Henry, the shop's owner, offered his own tricked-out car for the final months of the trip.)
Just another day at the office
Running more than a marathon every day for four months sounds nearly impossible, but Harrison said from the start that if Costello could accomplish as much as she did in her last year of life, all while being ravaged by chemo, then a simple jog across the country was nothing.
"I spent a week with her on the road and she'd finish up her run and it was like she had just finished a day at work," Anderson said. "We would hang out, head to dinner, chit-chat and do completely normal things, except that she had just run 30 miles that day. … Kelcey has more courage and inspiration than anyone I have ever met and I am so grateful to have been able to just be a small part of this huge adventure."
The last part of The Great Lung Run was across the Golden Gate Bridge to Crissy Field. The Cal crew team, Harrison and Costello's high school crew team and other friends and family joined in for the final miles.
The official completion of Harrison's run took place last Thursday -- a celebratory cocktail party at St. Ignatius College Prep, the high school she and Costello attended. Harrison had been honoring Costello's memory with each step of her journey, but returning to a place where they grew up was difficult.
"It's not hard to think about Jill all the time because she sort of turns into this image, a legend" Harrison said. "What's hard is when you find those moments to step back and remember Jill your friend. Jill who did Halloween costumes with me for 16 years of our lives. That's where it's tough.
"It's become bigger than her, which sometimes is sad because you feel like you're forgetting a little bit of your friend, but in her last year of life that's really what she was aiming for. All of us at Jill's Legacy are really proud of what we're accomplishing but also really sad about [the reason] we're all involved in this."
Harrison will wake up this week with no miles to run, no path to follow. She's no longer interested in attending law school, but isn't quite sure what she wants to do instead.
"I'll take a little time to relax and then try to figure out what's next," she said. "I'm looking out for jobs, but I'll always be tied to our foundation and the cause of lung cancer. We'll always have jogs, bar events, restaurant things; anything to get more young people involved in lung cancer awareness. That will continue forever."
A young woman is nearly finished running from New York City to San Francisco to raise awareness and funds for lung cancer.
Over the last few months, this story should have been all over the internet, newspapers, magazines, and on TV. It is not. Why?
Follow The Great Lung Run today. Share it. Know someone in the media? Forward this to them.
Each year, WebMD celebrates visionary Americans who met a health challenge and gave back to others in an inspiring way. This year, WebMD awarded $2,500 to each Health Hero to be used for their foundation or project.
Congratulations, Bonnie! We are very proud to know you and to work with you! Keep up the great work!
by Lynne Eldridge MD
This post was originally published at About.com on November 12th, 2012.
Thanks to one solitary person with tsunami-like vision, Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2012 will again be celebrated by a lighting of the falls.
On November 16, 2012, Niagara Falls will be lit up in white for lung cancer. Not once, but twice.
Last year I shared the story of how this came to be. A story that transcends the event, transcends the waterfall, and transcends even lungLy cancer awareness month. The story about how a single person who wants to make a difference, and doesn't say "I can't," can help each of us who hears it begin to say "I can." I know I felt that way after hearing Christine Dwyers story. You can read it here.
This year, on November 16, 2012 from 8:00 to 8:15 and again from 9:00 to 9:15 Eastern Standard Time the falls will be illuminated in honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
If you get a chance to attend the event, dress warmly. You can watch the display from Niagara Falls State Park, NY, or from Niagara State Park, Ontario, Canada.
But the really cool thing is that anyone, anywhere in the world can take part in this event via live webcam.
Links for the live feed:
Last year, despite the cold chill of November, Christine described the event as almost spiritual. As I remember her excitement, the thought keeps coming to my mind; what would happen if each of us lived the quote that Christine shared last year? "If you don't like something, do something to change it."
Christine has lived up to that quote. The event last year was driven by her realization about lung cancer - that it affects far too many people; people from every walk of life. Having lost her step grandfather, step dad, and best friend from the disease, she founded "Make Some Noise for Lung Cancer Awareness." Most recently, and after arranging for Niagara Falls to be lit again for lung cancer this year, her dear mother has also been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. As she stands in the cold -- but with a warm heart - watching the falls lit up this Friday, please hold her in your virtual arms.
Photo: © Christine Dwyer
Kelcey Harrison Runs from New York to San Francisco to Raise Awareness and Funds for Lung Cancer ResearchRead Now
Harvard Student Supports Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and Continues 3,500 Mile Journey in Memory of her Childhood Friend
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (BJALCF) today announced Kelcey Harrison's progress on the Great Lung Run. She has reached Arizona, the eleventh state on her journey, running her 2500th mile and is now —960 miles from San Francisco, the ultimate destination. Harrison, the first 24-year-old Harvard grad to run across the country in less than 125 days, continues her journey to raise awareness and funds for all Lung Cancer patients. Harrison teamed up with BJALCF—the leading patient-founded, focused and driven non-profit dedicated to ending Lung Cancer and its young people's movement Jill's Legacy®, a subsidiary of BJALCF. Harrison hopes to draw attention to the most deadly form of cancer and raise money for research. Now in Arizona, Harrison has run an average of 30 – 40 miles a day since she departed New York in July.
"My mission is to honor Jill's memory and achieve her dream of beating Lung Cancer for all Lung Cancer patients – big time!" explained Harrison." My friend Jill was a 22-year-old never smoker when she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. It's important to share the message that anyone, even young athletes like Jill, can get Lung Cancer. I hope that by running across the country and showing what my lungs can do, I inspire people to join the fight against Lung Cancer – the most deadly form of cancer in both men and women worldwide. My ultimate goal is to help all people with Lung Cancer. That was Jill's dream & we intend to finish it."
Harrison's trip, known as the Great Lung Run, has been documented throughout Twitter, Facebook, the BJALCF and Jill's Legacy websites. Harrison asks the daily question, #WhatCanYourLungsDo?, prompting her friends and followers to join the fight against Lung Cancer. So far, she has received a tremendous response, with children as young as 7 getting involved in the fight against Lung Cancer. Families across the country have hosted Harrison as she passed through their towns and many have run alongside her in support.
"Kelcey is my hero and my hope is that people will listen, take action and change the atrocious lack of funding for research for this disease. BJALCF and Jill's Legacy are taking a seat at the table of progress in Lung Cancer research and together their voices are resounding in the halls of health care so that all Lung Cancer patients will have a voice." said Bonnie J. Addario, founder of BJALCF and Lung Cancer survivor.
Harrison is scheduled to arrive in the San Francisco Bay Area in five weeks. A welcome home celebration of Harrison's journey, party and fundraiser will be hosted at Saint Ignatius High School in San Francisco on December 6th. Many sponsorship opportunities are available.
The Great Lung Run was featured on Monday, October 22 on the nationally syndicated daytime talk show, The Doctors. Click here to view.
How to Get Involved
For complete details on Kelcey's adventure, visit www.thegreatlungrun.com. To donate or sponsor The Great Lung Run, CLICK HERE or contact email@example.com or 949.293.2093. Sponsorships available from $10.00 - $35,000. All proceeds will go to Young Investigator Lung Cancer research or projects designed to significantly impact survival, catalyze and accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of more effective treatment options for lung cancer patients through the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, and its sister Foundation, the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI).
Interviews and Press Inquiries
For interviews and press inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-415-357-1278.
BJALCF and Jill's Legacy are hosting Your Next Step is the Cure® 5k walk/runs all over the country and Jog for Jill 5k's across college campuses. To participate in an event near you, click here. To host an event in your city, contact email@example.com.
About the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation
BJALCF is one of the largest philanthropies (patient-founded, patient-focused, and patient-driven) devoted exclusively to eradicating Lung Cancer through research, early detection, education, and treatment. The Foundation works with a diverse group of physicians, organizations, industry partners, individuals, survivors, and their families to identify solutions and make timely and meaningful change. BJALCF was established on March 6, 2006 as a 501c(3) non-profit organization and has raised over nine million dollars for Lung Cancer research. www.lungcancerfoundation.org
About Jillian Costello and Jill's Legacy
Jill's Legacy was established on March 11, 2011, as a subsidiary of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, a 501(c) 3, founded on March 1, 2006. Jill Costello was diagnosed in June 2009 with Stage IV Lung Cancer and began fundraising efforts with Bonnie one month after being diagnosed. She came to work for the foundation in April 2010. Her DREAM was to end Lung Cancer for all patients and those yet to be diagnosed. Jill lost her battle with Lung Cancer at 22-years-young on June 24, 2010. www.jillslegacy.org
About the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI)
ALCMI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, established in February, 2008, and a sister organization of BJALCF. With offices in California and Connecticut, and dozens of member institutions in the United States and Europe, ALCMI is dedicated to catalyzing and accelerating the discovery, development and delivery of new and more effective treatment options for Lung Cancer patients. In response to widely-acknowledged and systematic barriers to progress against Lung Cancer, ALCMI developed and launched an inaugural research program -- a targeted, multi-institutional biorepository. The purpose is to facilitate the application of known biomarkers to patients presenting today, and to establish a collection of biospecimens essential for the discovery and validation of new biomarkers for improved diagnostics, treatments and patient outcomes. www.alcmi.net
SOURCE: Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation
RELATED LINKS: http://www.lungcancerfoundation.org
Kelcey Harrison Great Lung Run Blog Post 10/12/12:
I realize that I probably have not been as forthcoming about the challenges of this journey and I'm sure many of you have wondered what the most difficult moments have been. Side note: I don’t really like to talk about my feelings...scary! So, that’s why this has been so late in coming.
Let me put it out there: there have been break-downs. There have been days that I wanted to call it a quits a few miles early or moments when I felt pangs of homesickness, but those have been pretty few and far between. I know that there is an end date and a finish line, and those two things alone make it easy to get through each and every day of this adventure. Add to it the fact that I have met incredible people along the way, have my buddy and savior Sydney with me, and have Jill as my inspiration every day, and it’s even easier to keep my eyes on the prize. That said, there are moments that literally stop me, hands on my knees and tears in my eyes when I remember why, exactly, I am running across the country. When that young, beautiful, strong girl with clammy hands, forever stunted fingernails, and razor sharp teeth left this world, we lost someone incredibly special. She was special to so many in very unique ways and the pain of that loss can sometimes overwhelm me at an unexpected moment.
Especially over the last month, since Sydney's and my routine has become so consistent, (our routine outlined here, in case you missed that post) it has been easy to think less about the reason that I am doing this run: to honor my friend Jill and to beat lung cancer. It is in the moments when I have allowed myself to truly remember Jill and that I am far from being the only one who lost her, that I have become weak in the knees and shed a tear or two ten. These moments are sad, sure, but I'm not trying to elicit sympathy or make you feel sorry for me. Mostly, because I am not the only one who loved and lost her and what often pains me is thinking about how the rest of her loved ones— parents, family, and friends, also go through each day without her. When we lose someone we sometimes catch ourselves remembering that we are sad at inopportune times. That we miss that person immensely, and that we cannot figure out how or why they are simply, physically gone. In many ways I am grateful for these moments because they mean that I can still picture Jill vividly and that my memory of her is still so close to the surface; that while she may be gone, our collective memories of her keep her around—that giggly, curious, active girl we all grew to love so, so much.
In all other aspects, and throughout almost the entire run thus far, I have been pretty positive. I believed that it would all work out and it largely has. I believed that people would be supportive and they have. I believed that it would garner some new attention for lung cancer and it has. But, I have to admit, somewhere in Indiana a terrifying thought occurred to me. It is the only other thing, aside from those overwhelming memories of Jill and our combined loss, that has caused me to cry on the side of the road. Somewhere just before Louisville, KY, my mind was wandering as usual when I suddenly thought, “what if nothing changes after this run? What if no one really pays attention and this run has no impact whatsoever on the future of lung cancer? What if I fail Jill by not making people care enough?” I stopped in my tracks. It was the first time I really allowed myself to think that the Great Lung Run might not "succeed". Luckily, I have incredible people around me who buoyed me back from the bottom and reminded me that we were already reaching new people and providing great education about lung cancer. I have my parents and my extremely wise older sister to thank for quickly reestablishing my positive outlook.
The point is, difficult things happen in life. We lose people we love, we endure life's challenges, we go through tough times, and sometimes, we just have to cry or scream or whatever. The important thing is that we acknowledge these moments, take a deep breath, and then remember the bigger picture: to get the word out about lung cancer BIG TIME, and to beat lung cancer for everyone.
VISIT THE BONNIE J. ADDARIO LUNG CANCER FOUNDATION WEBSITE
VISIT THE JILL'S LEGACY WEBSITE
VISIT THE GREAT LUNG RUN WEBSITE
by Taylor Bell, Guest Blogger
The White House is “Pink” this month, but what will they do for Lung Cancer Awareness in November? NOTHING I’M SURE. Do people even know that November is Lung Cancer awareness month? Unfortunately, I doubt it. Sad. Pathetic. Hurtful. Shameful. Stigmatized. Unrecognized. Underfunded. Unimportant to Most.
Why? Because everyone thinks that in order to get Lung Cancer you have to smoke, and because you smoke you somehow deserve lung cancer. NO ONE deserves cancer of any kind. Not all smokers get lung cancer and not all lung cancer patients are smokers. Actually 60% of the newly diagnosed are NEVER smokers or former smokers who quit decades ago.
ALL cancers deserve the same recognition and awareness that breast cancer gets. We as a society do a disservice to the general public by hyping up breast cancer as much as we do and ignoring all of the other cancers that effect EVERYONE, specifically lung cancer. I’ve said it before but I am going to say it again. Lung Cancer is the NUMBER ONE cancer killer of MEN AND WOMEN in this nation. It kills more people than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined. It is the least funded of all major cancers and the stagnant 15.5% survival rate has remained unchanged for 40 years. 160,000 people will pass away from lung cancer this year alone in the US.
For those of you who don’t know, there is one person who is doing everything humanly possible to raise awareness for this disease. Kelcey Harrison is running across the UNITED STATES. Who can say they have done that? I would be surprised if anyone can say they have accomplished that task. 30-40 miles a day for 18 weeks straight….. What more could a person do to bring awareness to this horrible horrible cancer?! There is NOTHING more she could do. She is giving EVERYTHING possible.
ABC News Photo
So, why hasn’t the national news media picked up this story? Who knows? Is it because of the stigma? Is it because it’s not the “pretty pink cancer”? Is it because Lung Cancer doesn’t matter to most people? I mean, the girl is RUNNING ACROSS THE UNITED STATES. Why isn’t the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, Ellen, Oprah, Brian Williams, Rock Center begging her to be on their telecast? STIGMA. PERIOD.
That’s right folks, we have stigmatized this disease for so long that we have made everyone think that ONLY smokers get lung cancer and that they deserve it and therefore, Lung Cancer isn’t important.
Lung Cancer happens to people from all walks of life, Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Children, Siblings, Sorority Sisters, Division I College Athletes, NEVER SMOKERS, NFL Wives, Famous Singers and Actors, the list goes on.
From the great words of Katie Couric “It’s time to put the blame game aside, and figure out what is really going on.”
Please join me in trying to bring much needed awareness to Lung Cancer and bringing publicity to the one person who can say they have given everything humanly possible to raise awareness for this dreaded disease. Please follow @greatlungrun on Twitter or visit her website and fundraising page at www.thegreatlungrun.com and www.Crowdrise.com/thegreatlungrun.