John Atkinson was a 38 year old father, husband, golfer, employee and friend when he was faced with the startling news that he had Stage IV Lung Cancer. It had started with a simple pain in his right shoulder and after many doctor visits was diagnosed as non-small cell adenocarcinoma. John had not been a smoker and the cause of his cancer was unknown. The cancer was inoperable and John had to make some difficult choices regarding chemotherapy or clinical trials to treat it. Often, when patients first get diagnosed, they have dozens of resources available, a variety of places to turn. Unfortunately, that was not the case for lung cancer patients in 2007. For over two years, John fought his deadly disease with a strong faith and the incredible support of family and friends. John used the fight for his life to bring awareness and understanding to lung cancer.
John appeared on numerous television news spots, participated in guest speaking engagements, joined efforts with the Lung Cancer Alliance, and worked on his blog during his cancer journey. He organized an event at a local mall to raise awareness about lung cancer. He visited Children's Hospital in Omaha with his family to give gifts to children diagnosed with cancer. And, his favorite moment during the journey was his opportunity to play for the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge at Torrey Pines in 2008. John’s story about playing golf with his buddies after receiving chemotherapy was chosen from 56,000 entries. He won the contest and got the chance to play golf with Justin Timberlake, Tony Romo, and Matt Lauer. A support group of 60 family members and friends joined him in San Diego to watch him play. John appeared on the Today show, NBC Nightly News, Mike & Mike and many local news stations. Because of the opportunity with Golf Digest, John brought new attention to lung cancer and raised more awareness of the disease than he ever imagined.
The last six months of John’s life were very difficult. The cancer continued to spread and his health continued to decline. His time became limited, but he still told his doctor that he was not giving up. Sadly though, after a 26 month battle with lung cancer, John’s life ended at his home surrounded by his loving family. Lung cancer had taken another father, husband, and friend. The inspiration that John provided throughout his journey will never be forgotten. We hope to honor his memory and carry out his legacy with the John Atkinson Lung Cancer Foundation.
In John’s words, “Being diagnosed with the deadliest cancer in its final stage has a way of catching your attention. That news has changed my life. Since that day, my wife and our children have been pushed to the limits and forced to make incredibly tough decisions about our future. Whether you are dealing with lung cancer or you just had a bad day at work, being able to keep the perspective of life in constant view will help you deal with issues that come up. No matter how many times you get knocked down you always have to pick yourself up, put a smile of your face, and never, never give up! Keep the Faith!”