I have run a marathon, woken at dusk to support runners, hosted a 100 person gala, stormed Capitol Hill and my family and I will be attending Lung Love Run/Walk at the Philadelphia Zoo next Saturday. I do these things to raise awareness for lung cancer – a disease that kills more people than the five leading cancers combined – but is underfunded and lacks research, in large part because of the stigma associated with it.
What is my motivation? Andy.
4 years ago my college friend, who never smoked, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He died 53 weeks later. Andy Swan, passed away at the age of 35, leaving behind a beautiful wife and 4-year-old son. Andy was the Prop Master on the set of Criminal Minds and an award-winning director of several independent films. To me, he was a best friend.
Andy and I met at Penn State in 1993 and became fast friends. He even introduced me to Jeff, to whom I’ve been married to for 14 years. After graduation, Andy moved to L.A. to pursue his dream of filmmaking while I remained on the East Coast. Life got busy and we fell out of touch, until 2009 when we reconnected over Facebook. It was a year later he would learn of his diagnosis.
In January 2010, Andy was experiencing some back pain, which was attributed to heavy lifting he had to do as part of his job. He went in for a CT scan and was shocked to find that he had stage IV lung cancer. Andy never smoked and was a very healthy young man. I always thought lung cancer was a smoker’s disease, however 20% of people with lung cancer never smoked and 60% are former smokers, many of whom quit decades ago.
Andy fought bravely for just over a year and on February 8th, 2011, he succumbed to lung cancer with his wife and mother beside him.
In honor of Andy, I do everything in my power to raise awareness for the disease. Even my nine year old son has joined the cause through his lemonade stand sales.
Join me and my family on Saturday, August 16 for Lung Love Run/Walk Philly, as we walk in honor of Andy and all those impacted by the disease. Hope to see you there!
- Sarah Evans-Brockett, Team Lung Love member and lung cancer advocate