Family fights lung cancer in name of marathoner
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Four months after completing his first marathon in 2011, Scott Garet, 26, underwent an MRI test for pain in his back.
"We thought it was a running injury," his brother, Jonathan Garet, recalled.
But the MRI revealed a tumor, and a CAT scan the following day showed even more tumors.
Less than four months later, on Dec. 20, 2011, Scott Garet, who routinely ran 100 miles a month and had never smoked, lost his battle with lung cancer.
"It is still really tough to put words to. I and my family are struggling with this," Jonathan Garet said.
"The doctors had no explanation as to why he got this. It might have been easier to cope with if there was an explanation," said Mr. Garet, 24, of Canton, Washington County.
As a memorial and to raise awareness and funds for lung cancer research, the family established the Scott A. Garet Memorial Foundation, which was granted nonprofit status in August.
The family also held the first Monkey 5K Run/Walk on Aug. 18 at the Southpointe business park in Cecil.
They named the race "Monkey" because "Scott always had a stuffed animal growing up," his sister-in-law, Rachel Garet, said.
The race attracted 347 runners and raised $14,000 for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute earmarked for lung cancer research.
"We were expecting about 250 [runners], but it took off for us in a good way," Mr. Garet said.
The next Monkey 5K Run/Walk is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 17 at the same site.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk factors for lung cancer include smoking tobacco or being around others who smoke; exposure to radon gas or asbestos at home or work; and a personal history that includes such factors as having radiation therapy or a family history of lung cancer.
Jonathan Garet said his brother had none of the known risk factors.
William Sims, a pulmonary disease and critical care specialist at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Jefferson Hills, said the U.S. averages about 226,000 new lung cancer cases annually.
About 160,000 patients die annually in the U.S. from lung cancer.
"We think of lung cancer as occurring in a middle-aged person who is a smoker and who may have worked in the mills, especially for asbestos exposure and other radiation exposures like arsenic and radon.
"But we do certainly recognize that there is a significant number of patients diagnosed with lung cancer, both women and men, who never smoked and had no identifiable risk factors," Dr. Sims said.
About 10 percent of men and 20 percent of women in the U.S. who develop lung cancer have never smoked, he said.
Although lung cancer in women and men is not the most common cancer, it is the most common cause of cancer deaths in both sexes in the U.S. The most common cancer among men is prostate cancer; for women, it is breast cancer.
Symptoms of lung cancer include shortness of breath, coughing up blood, pain in the chest and weight loss.
If discovered in Stage 1 or 2, most types can sometimes be cured with surgery. Stages 3 and 4, or advanced stages, are treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
"One of the heartbreaks is the patient doesn't usually develop symptoms until they have advanced stage disease," Dr. Sims said.
The middle of three brothers, Scott Garet, who lived in Canton, graduated from Waynesburg University with a degree in mathematics in 2007.
He worked as a mathematics tutor and was looking for a full-time teaching position. He also was a substitute teacher in a variety of subjects and was a long-term French substitute at Washington High School.
Jonathan Garet said Scott's loved ones find comfort in knowing organizations such as the lung association are striving to bring attention to lung disease.
"Others are battling with us, fighting to shed light on this topic. Something needs to be done, and I, along with my family, will continue Scott's fight," he said.
To donate to the foundation, mail checks made payable to the Scott A. Garet Memorial Foundation to: P.O. Box 329, Meadow Lands, PA 15347. For more information: www.flyingmonkey5k.com.
First Published December 13, 2012 7:42 am