At 22 years old, Jillian Costello’s goals were a little different than most young women her age. While most of her peers were celebrating college graduation and the commencement their adult lives, Costello was preparing for the end of hers.
A UC Berkeley graduate, student athlete and a non-smoking lung cancer victim, Costello from San Francisco, was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2009 and died just one year later.
Her unrelenting fight made her a poster child for how the disease can affect even the healthiest people, shattering the stigma that this disease – the number one cancer killer – is brought on by smoking.
Fact is, 80 percent of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients either never smoked or quit smoking decades ago, according to Bonnie Addario, namesake and founder of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, the worldwide leader in eradicating the disease. Lung cancer, Addario said, accounts for more than 30 percent of all cancer deaths.
To embrace Costello’s memory, Jill’s Legacy was formed, an advisory board to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, made up of young professionals who have been personally touched by lung cancer.
According to one advisory board member, their mission is simple. “Essentially, we want to make a change in the way lung cancer is viewed in society and treated in medicine,” said Jill’s Legacy Executive Committee member Kristina Renda. “While other cancers have benefited from modern science and research and exceeded survival rates of 95 percent, the survival rate for lung cancer hasn’t budged from 15 percent in 40 years. That is unacceptable to us and that’s something we have to change.”
On March 10, throngs of supporters are expected to lace up their sneakers and run in honor of Costello and of the foundation as a whole, getting the message out about how under-funded the world’s No. 1 cancer killer is and how its stagnant 15 percent survival rate is simply put: intolerable.
“I am inspired and extremely hopeful about the message these incredible young people can send to the world about lung cancer,” Addario said. “They can unearth the truth about this horrific disease, of epidemic proportions and substantially impact funding for much-needed research.”
The start of the run begins at Kroeber Fountain on the University of California, Berkeley campus at 11 a.m.