I don't know if I am in denial, am extremely naive, or if I truly am confident that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now, but for some reason the fact that I've started running 30 miles a day and won't stop until I reach San Francisco doesn't seem to stress or scare me. Maybe it's just that crazy people don't realize they're that crazy?
I'm just your average 24-year-old who grew up in San Francisco, went to Harvard University, and moved to New York soon after college. For the last two years I worked at the New York County District Attorney's Office. Although I had the best time working there, I realized that law school was not really the route I wanted to take, and I was feeling a pull to make a change coupled with a very strong desire to contribute more to Jill's Legacy, I began thinking about some new options.
This is where I break from the normal... The idea that I came up with was to run from New York to San Francisco to raise money and awareness for lung cancer. Lots of people asked, why? Couldn't I have done something a little less risky? But for me, it made perfect sense. I am using a skill that I have been blessed with -- running long-distance -- to make a difference and to draw people's attention to a topic that deserves greater discussion, awareness, and funding. I am doing something really big and out there, which was what Jill was all about.
Jill and I first met when we attended kindergarten together. We went to school together from kindergarten through high school and remained good friends through college. While we were in school, there was a group of about five of us that was inseparable. She was a friend who was always there for me and had been in my life for so long that I always expected her to be around for life's big moments.
When she was diagnosed with lung cancer at just 21 years old, it was a huge shock. I certainly did not know how to handle it, but she did. She lived with more grace, determination, strength, and joy than most people will ever demonstrate in their lifetimes. After her diagnosis she did a lot of advocacy work with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. In the last year of her life, Jill was named Pac-10 Women's Athlete of the Year, she graduated Cal Berkeley with a 4.0 and she led the Cal Women's crew team to a national championship. A few weeks after, Jill passed away. After her passing a group of young people with connections to Jill and/or the foundation formed Jill's Legacy, an advisory board to the foundation. Our goal is to mobilize young people to use their voices and power to raise awareness for lung cancer and to really start a movement to demand a change.
Our goal is to debunk the stigma that faces lung cancer patients. The common belief that lung cancer is a smoker's disease or one that only affects older people is wrong. The first question people always ask in response to a diagnosis is, "Oh, you were a smoker?" The underlying message that comes across with this question is the idea that lung cancer patients somehow brought the disease upon themselves and so it is the last disease to get funding for research. This has to change. Nobody deserves to get cancer for any reason and, of equal importance no one deserves to get a disease for which there simply is not enough support. The survival rate for lung cancer has not changed in 40 years and that fact simply boggles my mind. With the technology we have today, there should be better options for early detection and treatment so that fewer lives will be lost. Why aren't people talking about this! For those of us who knew Jill, it drives us nuts.
So, my journey has begun and I already have so much to share! Follow my Twitter account, as I will be Tweeting the wild adventures and characters I encounter along the way.
I can't articulate how thankful I am for all of the support I have already received. I am already overwhelmed by the responses. We have raised over $100,000 since announcing the Great Lung Run just one month ago. I would be so appreciative of any support that readers can offer, whether that be in the form of a wave, a tweet or a penny. To support, visit www.thegreatlungrun.com, follow me on Twitter, or email me at Kelceyharrison@thegreatlungrun.com.