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April 24, 2013

Athens grad battles rare cancer, aims to raise funds with 5k

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
The Humphrey family, from left, Andrea, Ryan, Landon, and (in Andrea’s lap) Logan, plan to walk in the First Annual Angiosarcoma Awareness 5k Road Race and Walk at Athens High School, where Ryan graduated from in 2000, to raise research funds for angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that Ryan battles.

Troy native Ryan Humphrey, 30, thought the tightness he felt in his chest in February 2012 was because he was about to take the Medical College Admission Test.

“I thought it was anxiety,” said Ryan, who graduated from Athens High School in 2000 and flew jets for American Eagle Airlines after he graduated from Western Michigan University. He married wife Andrea and settled in Grand Ledge.

He was diagnosed with angiosarcoma, a rare, aggressive cancer in 2009, after he sought medical attention when he was coughing up blood. He had a portion of a lung removed, and he completed chemotherapy. Since he couldn’t fly planes for three years, he was hoping to go to medical school.

A scan revealed the cancer had returned, and Ryan had his left lung completely removed and is currently completing his chemotherapy treatments.

Ryan explained that angiosarcoma has a five-year survival rate of 30 percent. It accounts for 0.1 percent of adult cancers, he noted.

In the midst of his battle with the disease, Andrea, a civil engineer with the state of Michigan, gave birth to Landon in 2010 and Logan in 2012. Both boys are healthy. They had planned to space their children three years apart, which would have coincided with Ryan’s chemotherapy.

“Other than the disease, our lives are wonderful,” Humphrey said.

Andrea had maternity leave for both children during crucial times in Ryan’s treatment. Medical insurance covered a large portion of Ryan’s visits to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Out-of-pocket expenses for Ryan’s treatment total about $15,000.

“Our insurance is wonderful,” Ryan said of the family’s coverage through his wife’s job. In addition, Andrea received an extra six weeks of paid leave from her job. Ryan works for American Eagle in Kalamazoo part-time in customer service when he can.

Andrea said that, although Ryan has coped with a number of side effects from his treatment, “the side effects are worth it,” she said. “This is his third regimen of chemo. He doesn’t like to dwell on those things. We can lead a very normal life.”

In an effort to raise funds for research to combat angiosarcoma, the Humphreys have spearheaded the Angiosarcoma Awareness 5k Road Race and Walk at Athens High School May 4 to benefit Angiosarcoma Awareness, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) staffed by volunteers dedicated to finding better therapies and a cure for angiosarcoma. 

Ryan plans to walk the 5k, and Andrea will walk the route with Landon and Logan in a stroller. 

The couple got the idea to organize a 5k event when founders of the organization, Corrie Painter and Lauren Ryan, both battling angiosarcoma of the breast, planned a 5k event in the Boston area. 

Ryan said Athens High School seemed like the perfect place to hold the event.

“I played soccer on the Athens varsity team,” he said. “My whole family lives in Troy. Troy is still a big part of me.”

The Angiosarcoma Awareness 5k Race and Walk will be held at 9 a.m. May 4 at Athens High School, 4333 John R. The cost to participate is $30. Register online at www.troyASA5K.org or at Athens High School the day of the event. For information about the organization, visit www.cureasc.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.