Longtime Lung Cancer Research Advocate Mike Stevens Dies

He called cancer the worst thing that ever happened to him and the best thing that ever happened to him

By R. Stickney
|  Thursday, Sep 26, 2013  |  Updated 11:36 AM PDT
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Breath of Hope Walk 2013

NBC 7 News

Mike Stevens spoke with NBC 7 News in May 2013 about his battle against lung cancer.

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Mike Stevens talks about how he's dealt with his lung cancer diagnosis and how he has exceeded his initial prognosis.

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NBC 7's Whitney Southwick speaks with Rebeca Enriquez, the daughter of this year's honoree for the Breath of Hope Lung Cancer Walk.
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A San Diegan considered an amazing advocate for those living with lung cancer has died.

On Wednesday, the California chapter of the Lung Cancer Alliance shared the news about the death of founding member Mike Stevens.

Stevens was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer in June 2005. He was told his type of cancer had a 5-percent survival rate. An oncologist expected Stevens to live a few months. He went on to live more than eight years.

The La Jolla resident sold his business and traveled on safaris, fishing and hunting trips. He called cancer the worst thing that ever happened to him and the best thing that ever happened to him.

“I never would’ve taken the time off and never have spent the money if I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer,” Stevens told NBC 7 in May 2013.

He also worked as a full-time advocate for lung-cancer research and funding.

Never a smoker, Stevens wanted to educate people that lung cancer is not always connected to the habit.

He believed the research dollars were not there because of the stigma attached to lung cancer.

"The No. 1 question everybody asks me is, ‘Did you smoke?’" Stevens once said. “Everybody thinks that because you have lung cancer, you're a smoker."

He lobbied in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C. for legislation. In fact, the Lung Cancer Alliance credits Steven’s “never take no for an answer attitude” with helping pass the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act.

The legislation required the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop research plans for the most lethal cancers – those with a five-year survival rate of less than 50-percent – with lung and pancreatic cancers getting priority.

“A true mover and shaker who told it like it is. Great Man,” Andrew Santamaria posted on the group’s Facebook page.

Stevens co-founded the Breath of Hope walk that has raised more than $600,000 in its first five years.

NBC 7's Whitney Southwick often emceed the event as he did in 2011 when Stevens (pictured right) spoke to the crowd.

"He was the bravest man I've ever met," Southwick said of Stevens. "He's impacted so many San Diegans with his courage and zest for life."

Information on funeral services have not been made public.

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