Lung cancer advocate and La Jolla resident Mike Stevens died Wednesday at his home in La Jolla, his daughter Hallie Stevens said.
He was 52 years old.
“I saw the statistics for lung cancer and got mad as hell,” he told Patch in an interview in 2012. “No other way to put it.”
A longtime local fixture, for 22 years Stevens was the owner of the La Jolla One-Hour Photo and Copy shop.
Stevens began volunteering for the Lung Cancer Alliance after he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2005 and given months to live because low funding levels for lung cancer research and the unchanged survival rate.
“Lung cancer receives a fraction of the funding of the other major cancers yet is responsible for one out of three cancer deaths,” he told Patch.
A non-smoker, Stevens believed that because of the smoking stigma associated with lung cancer that support for research isn’t there.
“It has the stigma behind it that we all deserve what we got,” he said. “Nothing can be further from the truth. We don’t ask heart patients how much bacon they ate in their lives, so why do we ask lung cancer patients if they smoked?”
A San Diego native, Stevens graduated from UCSD in 1983, where he met his wife, Susan. After he was diagnosed, he and his wife, along with a few others survivors founded the San Diego Breath of Hope Lung Cancer Walk to raise money to reduce the mortality rate of lung cancer and to raise awareness of the disease. To date, the walk has raised more than $500,000.
“I was suppose to live two months, and if the system had given up on me, like I have seen it do to others, I would not have been here to help so many who are in need of help and guidance,” he told Patch.
After his diagnosis, Stevens sold his business and volunteered full-time for the Lung Cancer Alliance. The alliance attributes his “never take no for an answer” attitude for the passage of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act.
The act requires the National Cancer Institute to develop plans to address the deadliest of cancers, those with a five-year survival rate of less than 50 percent, with immediate attention given to lung and pancreatic cancers.
Stevens is survived by his parents, Loren and Shirley, 73, Stevens; sister, Sandy Suratt, 51; wife, Susan, 52; and two children, Hallie, 23, and Trent, 20.
A public memorial service will be held Oct. 26 at the family’s vacation home, 33380 Upper Meadow Rd., Pala, CA.