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April 16, 2014

Athens grad battles rare cancer, spearheads 5k for cure

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

Troy Athens Class of 2000 grad Ryan Humphrey, 32, is in a holding pattern right now, waiting for test results of brain scans.

The stay-at-home dad to sons Landon and Logan, 4 and 2, has battled angiosarcoma, a rare, aggressive cancer, since 2009 after seeking medical treatment for coughing up blood. He graduated from Western Michigan University, where he met his wife, Andrea, now a civil engineer for the state of Michigan, and settled down in Grand Ledge working as a pilot for American Eagle.

“I tried to go back to work twice, and medical issues came up,” he explained.

Angiosarcoma is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, with a five-year overall survival rate of 30 percent. The rare cancer accounts for 0.1 percent of adult malignancies.

Since his diagnosis, Humphrey has had his left lung removed, endured 37 rounds of chemotherapy and had radiation for a lesion on his brain this past January.

And he plans to run in the second annual Troy Angiosarcoma Awareness Steps Toward a Cure run/walk at Athens High School May 3.

Although he is in pain every day, in addition to caring for his sons, he does daily physical activity  — yoga, running and working with weights.

“Ryan is the kindest and most positive individual I have ever met,” said his friend Dave Henderson Jr., who volunteered for the event at Athens High School last year.

“With everything he and his family have been through, he still always manages to have a positive outlook on life. It is truly a inspiring story.”

“It’s one of the scariest games of wait and see I’ve ever had in my whole life,” Humphrey said of waiting for the test results and deciding on what, if any, treatments to pursue next, which could include a month-long invasive, aggressive treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “It’s harder now than in the beginning,” he said.  “There’s no clear answer.”

Last year, the first Troy ASA 5k race was organized in just one month’s time and raised $25,000. More than 320 runners and walkers, along with numerous volunteers, participated. The funds established the Isabella Nicole Slot Angiosarcoma Awareness Inc. research grant, awarded to Dr. Vinod Ravi at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Humphrey said that Slot, age 5, was diagnosed with angiosarcoma, underwent a liver transplant and is now disease-free.

Humphrey said he wanted to name the grant after her because “she is amazing.”

Ryan and Andrea Humphrey got the idea to organize a 5k after founders of the organization, Corrie Painter and Lauren Ryan, both battling angiosarcoma of the breast, were planning a 5k event in the Boston area.  Painter serves as chief scientific officer for the organization and is disease-free, and Lauren Ryan is still battling the disease.

Humphrey said Athens High School seemed like the perfect place to hold the event. He played soccer on the varsity team at the school. 

“Athens is a big part of who I am,” Humphrey said. “They are genuine people you can always count on. I hope they can always count on me. I never saw a community like that.”

The Angiosarcoma Awareness Steps Toward a Cure run/walk will be held at 9 a.m. May 3 at Athens High School, 4333 John R. The event will include a 10k, a 5k and a Kids Superhero Dash. Further details, including registration, and volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, can be found at www.troyASA.org. The cost to participate is $30. Register online at www.troyASA.org or at Athens High School the day of the event.

For information about the organization, visit www.cureasc.org. Angiosarcoma Awareness Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3). All donations to the run are tax-deductible. Proceeds from the event go directly to Angiosarcoma Awareness Inc.

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