Those of you in the cancer community may have heard the name Jill Costello before. We first learned about her through her best friend and cancer advocate, Darby Anderson, on an impromptu visit to the Oncofertility Consortium. Jill has been featured on ESPN, written about in Sports Illustrated, interviewed on NPR and she even has her own entry in Wikipedia. Jill was an athlete, a 4.0 student, and an activist among other things. She was an athlete by nature, and an activist by choice. At the age of 21, Jill was diagnosed with stage 4-lung cancer – a healthy and active young woman with no history of smoking or genetic pre-disposition to cancer.
There is no cancer that is better than another, but lung cancer often has discouraging statistics. Less than 2% of individuals diagnosed with lung cancer at stage 4 survive, and many associate lung cancer with smoking, assigning an unfair stigma for many diagnosed with the disease. As a result of this disease’s reputation (that it’s self-induced), and due to the low survival rate, it rarely attracts big research money. In the last 40 years, the survival rate has largely remained the same.
As a testament to who she was as a person, Jill was brave and positive throughout her yearlong battle with cancer. She remained active on the rowing team and successfully led her team to a Pac-10 victory as the coxswain for UC Berkeley’s women’s crew. She finished college with a 4.0 G.P.A. and spearheaded the first Jog for Jill, a 5k walk/run for the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation on February 7, 2010 in Berkley, CA. Jog for Jill raised over $45,000 dollars and drew 1,000 participants making it the largest fundraiser ever for lung cancer at that time.
A little over one year after her initial diagnosis, Jill passed away leaving behind a legacy of activism and fundraising in an effort to, in Jill’s own words, “Beat Lung Cancer Big Time!” Beginning March 11, 2012, the Jog for Jill Walk/Run series kicks off in Berkeley, CA and will be touring the country to raise money for lung cancer research. The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation will be hosting walk/runs in 17 different cities, so please visit the Jog for Jill webpage for details on how you can participate.