Share This Page

Western Pa. family's nonprofit raises lung cancer awareness

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 12:11 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Jim & Rebecca Garet pose for a portrait with their sons, Michael (left) and Jonathan (right) at the Trib on Thursday, December 6, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Despite never having smoked, Scott Garet died at age 26 of lung cancer. His family has set up the Scott A. Garet Memorial Foundation and organized the Flying Monkey 5K Run/Walk, to raise awareness and funds for lung cancer research.

All cancer diagnoses are devastating. For those who knew and loved Scott Garet, his was unfathomable.

Garet was a marathon runner who paid close attention to his personal fitness. He was a nonsmoker, but on Dec. 20, 2011, at age 26, he died of lung cancer.

“I'm still coping with why this happened. I'll be doing that all my life,” said Jonathan Garet, 24, of Washington, the youngest of the three Garet brothers. “But that's turned into pure determination.”

The family established the nonprofit Scott A. Garet Memorial Foundation and held a 5K run in his honor to raise awareness and money for lung cancer research. Last month, the family donated $14,000 to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, earmarked for lung cancer research.

“Even if we help one family, it's well worth it,” said Michael Garet, 30, of Level Green. “It's all about helping others.”

To donate to the Scott A. Garet Memorial Foundation, mail a check written out to the organization to P.O. Box 329, Meadow Lands, PA 15347. For more information, visit www.scottagaretmemorialfoundation.org or www.flyingmonkey5k.com.

According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. Every year, 16,000 to 24,000 Americans die of lung cancer, even though they never smoked.

Garet had an undifferentiated tumor, meaning doctors could not classify it, said Dr. Mark A. Socinski, director of lung cancer in the hematology/oncology division at the University of Pittsburgh, who consulted on his case.

“It is frustrating from a physician point of view because we base treatment recommendations on what we're dealing with,” Socinski said.

Lung cancer among nonsmokers is more common than most people think, he said. He stressed the need for screening if someone shows a symptom such as a persistent cough.

“People need to shed the association that it's a smoker's disease and a self-inflicted disease,” Socinski said. “No one deserves to get cancer.”

Garet, son of Jim and Rebecca Garet of Washington, had a healthy sense of competition. He played soccer at Trinity High School and Waynesburg University, where he studied math and secondary education. He liked to play tennis with his brother — he even documented scores of their casual matches.

He found his passion for running through friends. It was normal for him to log 100 miles a month.

When he began experiencing back pain in August 2011, he assumed it was muscle strain. When it wouldn't go away, he consulted doctors, and on Sept. 1, 2011, an MRI uncovered a tumor in his back. A CAT scan the next day revealed more tumors throughout his body.

Weeks of tests followed, with doctors stymied in their search for the root cause. Finally, they determined Garet had stage 4 mixed-cell carcinoma lung cancer.

No one could determine why. The family sought a second opinion, but the diagnosis was the same.

“The doctors kept saying, ‘You did nothing wrong,'” Jonathan Garet said.

Chemotherapy followed, but the tumors did not shrink enough. Garet had family with him around the clock at UPMC Shadyside.

“We did what we had to do,” said Jonathan Garet, eyes welling with tears. “We focused all our attention on Scott.”

He was surrounded by family when he died peacefully at his parents' home, illuminated by the bright lights of his favorite Christmas decorations.

This time of year is difficult. Formerly joyful acts, such as decorating the house for the holidays, elicit intense emotion in the Garets. They persevere in Scott's honor.

“Every time we have to tell the story again, it hurts. It brings pain,” said Jim Garet, 56. “But we have to do something because God forbid our other sons get the same disease.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.