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Lung Cancer Survivors Share Stories Of Value Of Early Detection And Hope For More Effective Treatments

The spokespeople listed below illustrate and speak to the critical importance of early detection, the power of targeted therapies, and survivorship. Their stories illustrate the impact and the promise of ongoing research, and they are available for interviews.

Early Detection:

Dusty Donaldson, 58, High Point, N.C. , a former smoker who quit 26 years before her diagnosis. She was diagnosed with stage 1B lung cancer in September 2005, luckily before the cancer had time to spread. She had surgery and chemotherapy and is currently cancer free. She notes, "I am compelled to find others and share with them information regarding screening for early detection; less common risk factors, such as radon exposure; and symptoms of lung cancer, so they may survive as I have." Watch Dusty share her story here.

Heather Geraghty, 26, Maple Shade, N.J. , diagnosed in December 2010, with a low-grade lung cancer tumor called Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma at age 24. After experiencing persistent chest pain, a CAT scan revealed a mass in her right lung. Doctors removed two-thirds of Heather's right lung. Nearly two years cancer-free, Geraghty has dedicated her life to sharing her story and showing that lung cancer can affect anyone, even 24 year olds. See her story here.

Jan Gibson, 54, Prince Frederick, Md. ,  a 46 year-old nonsmoker diagnosed with the Adenocarcinoma form of non-small cell lung cancer in 2005. After experiencing chest pain on her right side, she went to the emergency room, concerned she was having a heart attack. Doctors discovered a mass, stage 1A lung cancer, and removed a portion of her left lung. The day of her surgery, she was so that worried she wrote her daughters goodbye letters, "just in case." She has been cancer-free ever since. See her story here.

Targeted Therapies:

Baltimore Orioles Public Relations Director Monica Barlow, 35, Ellicott City, Md., has never smoked, yet she was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2009, when she couldn't shake a nagging cough. Her tumors had the ALK mutation, and she was treated with the targeted drug now known as crizotinib as an example of personalized medicine. With this treatment, she is able to control her disease. Monica shares her story to help others affected and show the impact of lung cancer research for creating more effective treatments.

Jeff Wigbels, 63, Atlanta, Ga ., a nonsmoker, triathlete and marathon runner diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2006, the day before his wife's due date for their second child. Jeff's cancer had metastasized to his abdomen, chest and brain. He began a series of personalized treatment trials at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and, by 2008, the only remaining cancer in his body was the original tumor in his lungs. After discovering that his tumor had the ALK mutation, Jeff took part in another clinical trial with a targeted therapy drug. He has since participated in a number of clinical trials that have helped him, and he is nearly cancer free. With a deep desire to give back and educate others, Jeff founded Take Aim at Cancer to raise money for lung cancer research and awareness of personalized, targeted cancer treatments and is partnering with LUNGevity Foundation.

Matt Ellefson, 50, Sioux Falls, S.D., diagnosed with advanced non-small cell lung cancer in 2009 and given eight months to live if untreated. As a never smoker living a healthy lifestyle, he was shocked by his diagnosis. After completing aggressive treatments, his cancer went into remission. When it reoccurred, he started targeted gene therapy and is currently on a targeted drug. He credits his current good health to the wisdom of his doctors; his strong faith in God; a healthy and fit lifestyle (he runs half marathons); and the peace that comes with helping others. Ellefson volunteers with LUNGevity to help others impacted by lung cancer. Watch his story here.


J erry Sorkin, Bethesda, Md., 47, a three-time cancer survivor and never smoker. He was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in August 2007. When he was in high school he was treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma, with a recurrence in college. A CEB executive and father of two young daughters, he founded LUNGevity's Breathe Deep DC walk, the largest lung cancer event in the area, as a way to help the lung cancer community share, remember, heal, and support the fight against the deadly disease. Watch him tell his story, here.

Jon Filbert, 35, Sanger, Texas, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008 during his pre-surgery X-rays for thyroid cancer. His doctor's eyes were red from crying when he delivered the news to Jon. Jon has been treated with targeted therapy and was also in a chemotherapy trial with a Novartis drug. His wife and friends have steadfastly supported him in his four-year battle against the disease. Watch his video here.

Jose Rodriguez, 52, Columbus, Ohio, was diagnosed with stage II non-small cell lung cancer in 2011. He had surgery followed by four rounds of chemotherapy. Currently, there is no evidence of the disease. "Lung cancer is an extremely isolating disease," he says. "It really affects you in such an emotional way. My greatest source of hope has been seeing people with lung cancer survive, and show me how to live with the disease." Watch him share his story here.

LUNGevity Foundation has the largest grants award program for lung cancer research among lung cancer-focused nonprofit organizations in the United States. In the past two years alone, LUNGevity has awarded over $5 million to the most promising lung cancer research projects. The organization also has the largest online support community for lung cancer patients and their loved ones.

The Foundation continues growing a strong lung cancer community, both online and through its nationwide events. The organization hosts over 60 grassroots events across the nation each year, not only raising critical research funds and heightened awareness of the disease, but also helping to educate the public about lung cancer's tragic impact. During November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, LUNGevity is hosting 14 Breathe Deep walks, providing a place for those impacted by the disease to share, hope and heal.

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