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HealthWatch: Cal Athlete’s Cancer Battle Inspires Cross-Country Run

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Kelcey Harrison and Jill Costello on their way to a birthday party during the summer of 2008. (Kelcey Harrison)

Kelcey Harrison and Jill Costello on their way to a birthday party during the summer of 2008. (Kelcey Harrison)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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BERKELEY (CBS 5) – A Bay Area athlete’s battle with lung cancer has inspired a unique journey to raise awareness and funds to combat the disease.

Nearly 57,000 people in California will die from cancer this year – about one in four will be killed by lung cancer, more than breast prostate and colon cancers combined.

In 2010, one of those victims was Jill Costello, a recent Cal grad who had been named Pac-10 athlete of the year while leading the varsity 8 crew boat to second place at nationals. During that senior year, the 21-year-old coxswain was battling stage-4 non-small cell adenocarcinoma, the type of lung cancer usually found in non-smokers, and the most common form found in women.

“She wasn’t going to let it beat her down. She would go from chemo to practice in the rain,” said Jill’s dad, Jim Costello.

That effort pushed her teammates to dig deeper.

“When she says to the team, ‘you need to be a little tougher here,’ you know, for it to be coming from her, who is battling for her life, quite literally, it really had a profound effect,” said Berkeley Women’s Rowing Coach Dave O’Neill.

Jill earned a 4.0 GPA in her senior year, and graduated with pride, wearing her Pac-10 medal and a blond wig. She died five weeks later in June of 2010, at 22-years-old.

Now her journey is inspiring her childhood friend as she goes the extra mile searching for a cure.

Kelcey Harrison, a soccer player and Harvard graduate, is running from New York to San Francisco to raise money for and awareness about the need for lung cancer research.

Harrison’s Great Lung Run began in Times Square this summer, and requires about 30 miles a day on the run. Eight million people are following the journey, which is set conclude with a crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge this Saturday, December 1st. The date happens to be Jill’s 25th birthday.

Some eight million people are tracking Kelcey Harrison’s journey. It’s a legacy Jill’s parents are proud of.

“She’s like this little pebble thrown in a pond, but these ripples are just growing…and I think that they will eventually accomplish her mission. I think there will be a cure,” said Mary Costello.

Click here to follow The Great Lung Run, or donate to the cause through via Jill’s Legacy.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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