WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Six years after losing her mother to lung cancer, successful corporate executive Andrea Ferris changed her life's work; she is now at the helm of the nation's largest nonprofit funder of lung cancer research.
Ferris says her mother, Pat Stern, was vibrant, giving and smart.
"She was an amazing person," Ferris said, tearing up. "Anybody you talk to would say, 'Pat Stern, she's my best friend.' And so, she made everybody feel special."
In 2006, Stern went to the doctor for neck pain. Her doctor told her it was arthritis, but at her next checkup, she was diagnosed with cancer.
"They found a 4-centimeter tumor on her aorta and had diagnosed her with stage-four lung cancer," Ferris said.
Stern fought the disease for 21 months, but died in 2008. Ferris says there were very few, if any, lung cancer organizations available to her mother. So Ferris, a Wharton Business School graduate with experience in banking and as an executive at Johnson & Johnson, decided to create the LUNGevity Foundation.
"I had an opportunity where I could take all of my various career, professional experiences, educational experiences and change things, so that others didn't have to suffer the same fate that my mother did," Ferris said.
LUNGevity is now the largest lung cancer nonprofit in the country. It funds research for the disease and offers support.
"Part of what we try to do at LUNGevity is to create that community, and to let people know when you're diagnosed with lung cancer that you're not alone."
Ferris knows her mother would be proud of the work she does in her honor, and the strides the foundation is making against the disease that claimed her life.
"The pace with which it's happening is just incredible," Ferris said. "I think that now you actually really can live well with lung cancer, and we can accomplish our vision of a world where no one dies from lung cancer."
Ferris has three children and says they are involved in the effort to remember their grandmother.
LUNGevity's next local fundraising walk, Breathe Deep DC, will be held on the National Mall on Sunday, Nov. 2.