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By Sarah Spain
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.
No. 1 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.
Great Lung Run
The goal of the Kelcey Harrison's run across the United States was to raise $250,000 for lung cancer research. Donations are being accepted here.
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.