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Flipping the Switch

27 Oct

Jerry Sorkin, a great friend and mentor to Chip, died yesterday after living with Stage IV lung cancer for nine years. Nine years!

I first wrote of Jerry in November of 2013 in the post I’m a Survivor (What?) after Chip participated in his first Breathe Deep DC 5K Walk on the Mall. After Jerry’s diagnosis in 2007, he became involved with LUNGevity in 2009 and organized the first fundraising walk for lung cancer on the National Mall that same year. His wife, Lisa, named the event Breathe Deep, which has now been adopted by all LUNGevity fundraising walks around the country.

After that first walk, Chip reached out to the LUNGevity Foundation to see how he could get involved. Chip met with LUNGevity President Andrea Ferris, who then connected Chip with Jerry. Jerry worked at Corporate Executive Board in Rosslyn just a couple of blocks away from Chip’s office at Raytheon, so they became lunch buddies. I think those lunches with Jerry became a huge part of Chip’s treatment, because they always provided him with such hope–hope that prognoses could be beaten and hope that we had not yet run out of treatment options, as Jerry was always in the know of what was coming down the pike in terms of new scientific developments and drugs.

Chip and I once had a double date with Jerry and Lisa in the cafeteria at Johns Hopkins. Woop woop!! I think Jerry was there for scans that day, and Chip and I were in-between labs and the infusion suite while we waited for the pharmacy to mix his chemo. We all laughed at what our social lives had come to, attending cancer galas and meeting up in hospitals for “fun.” On that particular day, the four of us mainly discussed our kids and how to talk to them about cancer. Their two girls, Emma and Claire, were seven and five at the time he was diagnosed, so quite young, but significantly older than Joe and Crosby, so their level of understanding was much greater. Chip and I so appreciated their counsel that day.

Ironically, or maybe not at all, yesterday was also the four-year anniversary of Chip’s Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. October 26th has been a real “kick in the dick” (as Chip would say) day for us, for me for the last four years. October 26th represents that line in the sand. It’s the before and after. Obviously the day we were served that Shit Sandwich was unfathomable. I chronicled how searing that first year post-diagnosis was in An Anniversary of Sorts and the poignancy of year two in We’ve STILL Got This. Last year was the first anniversary without Chip being here, which also coincided with the golf tournament, and it was all just so hard in every single way.

The lead up to this year’s anniversary was no different. For weeks, I have relived all of this trauma and experienced much anticipatory grief and anxiety, but yesterday, I woke up determined to flip the switch on how I felt about this day, because as long as I am privileged to live on this earth, there will always be an October 26th. It took me going back and re-reading my own blog posts to realize that yesterday was not just the day Chip was diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday was the day Chip taught us “We’ve got this!” He showed us what strength and courage look like. He taught us that we may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to them. He showed us how to keep moving forward. He taught us about relentless positivity and how to come together as a team. He taught us what really matters in life and how to let the anger go, because anger only robs you of joy and from being present in your life. He taught us that anyone can die but it takes courage to live! To have the courage to live.

Jerry was a courageous man, and he had the courage to live and to make a difference in so many lives. The loss of Chip and Jerry and Monica Barlow are so great, but what they left us behind are even greater. Cancer did not define any of them, but their responses to it did, and I give such deep thanks for each of their great lives.

I learned Jerry had died yesterday right before going to bed, and I went right back to hating on October 26th again. HATED it. My heart just ached for Lisa, Emma and Claire and for all those who mourn him.

This morning after dropping the kids off at school, I came back to the house, was cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, and I stepped outside to take out the trash. As I walked out the back door, this fluffy, white feather came flittering down and landed right before my feet. As I reached down to pick it up, I obviously started sobbing but also felt such joy and peace, because I knew it was Chip telling me Jerry was there with him.

I know I might sound crazy to some right now, but I don’t even care, because it’s a real thing. Google it. After Reilly Lewis died, I asked Chip to let me know once he had connected with him, and I asked Chip to please explain to Reilly why I never could write him that thank you note and to let him know how much we both loved and appreciated him. A few days later, Chip sent me a little fluffy, white feather. After my Grandmother Boyd died this summer, I asked Chip to please let me know once he met up with her and to let her know what a good Grandmomma she had been to me. A few days later, Chip sent me a fluffy, white feather. I guess Chip is in Jerry’s inner circle, because he sent me one right away this morning. I think Chip was also trying to hit me over the head and tell me to stop hating as it’s really all ok, because “We’ve still got this.” We really, truly do.

May you enjoy your rest in eternal peace, dear Jerry.


Jerry and Lisa at Breathe Deep DC (via LUNGevity

You can read more about Jerry on the LUNGevity website: LUNGevity Foundation mourns the loss of beloved friend, advocate, and Vice Chairman of the Board Jerry Sorkin | Nine-year lung cancer survivor worked tirelessly on behalf of people diagnosed with lung cancer.



Roll Call Reports on Chip Kennett Memorial Golf Tournament

2 Oct

Many thanks to Rebecca Gale for reporting on the Chip Kennett Memorial Golf Tournament. Her article will appear in Monday’s print edition of Roll Call. This is going to be a great event! – Sheila

Members of Congress, Staff Tee Off to Remember Chip Kennett
By Rebecca Gale
Roll Call

Members of Congress, current and former staffers are among the honorary host and tournament committees of The Chip Kennett Memorial Golf Tournament, scheduled for Oct. 26 at the Westfields Golf Club in Clifton, Va.

Kennett was a former Capitol Hill staffer who received a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis in 2012 at the age of 31. He became an advocate for more cancer research funding and increased access to clinical trial medications, even testifying to Congress about his personal experience. Advocates within the cancer community credit his fight with helping spur congressional action.

He died on Jan. 17, at the age of 34.

“Three years ago on October 26th, as a seemingly healthy 31-year-old man and soon-to-be father of our second child, Chip was diagnosed with stage IV non-smokers lung cancer and given 1-2 years to live. No one, no spouse, no parent, no child, no friend deserves to hear that,” his wife, Sheila Kennett, said in an email to CQ Roll Call. “On October 26th, we honor Chip’s life and continue his work in raising funds and awareness for LUNGevity, an organization that provided us with indispensable support and remains in the forefront of need and developing treatment options.”

Continue reading at Roll Call

The Chip Kennett Memorial Golf Tournament

12 Sep

On October 26, 2012, Chip and I were delivered the shit sandwich of a lifetime.

This year on October 26, we are going to celebrate his life and raise a shit-ton of awareness and money for LUNGevity at the first annual Chip Kennett Memorial Golf Tournament, to prevent other families from enduring what we had to.

Details (PDF download)

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LUNGevity Video

4 Feb

Today is World Cancer Day, so we thought it was a good time to post this video:


The video was thoughtfully and beautifully put together by our friends at LUNGevity, from footage shot for their 2014 foundation video. We are so grateful to them for creating this for us!

Learn more about LUNGevity and their important work at

Dear World Video

26 Jan

We’re sharing another video today, this one a project of Robert X. Fogarty’s Dear World. The video was filmed on November 10, 2014. AstraZeneca sponsored a cancer survivor project with Robert, and LUNGevity recommended Chip after the video we did with them. We are forever grateful.


Chip Interviewed by The Hill

1 Nov

In anticipation of tomorrow’s Breathe Deep DC walk, organized by LUNGevity, Chip recently was interviewed by The Hill: Former Senate staffer and lung cancer survivor laces up for 5k race.

An excerpt:

He may not be making a mad dash during the LUNGevity Foundation’s Breathe Deep DC 5K in Washington this weekend, but to former Senate staffer Chip Kennett, the fact that he’s lacing up at all is a reason to celebrate.

“I’m not back to running yet but I hope to get there and I’ll be able walk this 5K hopefully without any issues except maybe some chilly weather, that’s about it,” he says with a laugh. …

And the dad to four-year-old Joe, and daughter Crosby, who turns two next month, is urging supporters to join him on Sunday morning at the Washington Monument to help “bring more awareness to this disease.”

“It’s not just a smoker’s disease,” Kennett says, “It’s the deadliest form of cancer and it’s going to remain that way until we can increase awareness and funding to combat it. And we’re making great strides so we just need to continue that fight.”

Read the full article on The Hill.

Huge thanks to all who have supported our Breathe Deep team and to everyone who will be walking with us. 5K, here we come!

– Sheila

We’ve STILL Got This

26 Oct

Well, we did it–we outlived Chip’s prognosis!!  While today was chock full of emotions that ran the gamut, I was overwhelmingly grateful to have had the privilege of spending this precious day with Chip and our kids.

It was also surprisingly liberating to be freed from the timeline the prognosis of one-to-two years had pinned us in. Now we are in uncharted waters, and I can’t wait for Chip to continue to defy the odds on his own course.

The past two years have been filled with so many shocking and scary lows, but the highs have been oh, so much sweeter.  May we continue to embrace the next couple of years with the willingness to accept the things we cannot change, the perseverance to endure the difficult days and the ability to be present and grateful in the quality filled ones, because we’ve STILL got this.

– Sheila


LUNGevity is proud to release our 2014 Foundation Video. The video featuring stage IV lung cancer survivor, Chip Kennett, was premiered at LUNGevity’s NY and DC Galas and speaks to the importance of accelerating lung cancer research.

Donations to LUNGevity help provide support services, as well as funding for research projects to get the science from the lab to the patient faster.Because of this cutting-edge research, and the donors who support it, there is hope.

Join Team Kennett at Breathe Deep DC 2014

29 Aug

Team Kennett,

Last fall, thanks to what some may call a minor obsession with local meteorologist Doug Kammerer, I inadvertently became aware of an event called Breathe Deep DC – a fundraising walk around the National Mall for lung cancer. The event was organized by a group named LUNGevity, which I had also never heard of, to raise funds for critical lung cancer research, education, and support for patients and caregivers. Despite my reluctance at that point to participate in cancer-related causes, the day before the event, I decided to register and walk.

I still don’t know exactly what made me decide to walk last year. Maybe I had finally realized it was time I become more involved in fighting back against this awful disease, or maybe I just wanted a chance to meet Doug. Either way, I am grateful to have participated in last year’s Breathe Deep event as I met a number of amazing survivors and caregivers, helped raise critical awareness and funding, and also had the privilege of meeting Andrea Ferris, the President of LUNGevity. This encounter has led to almost a year of personal involvement with LUNGevity and their efforts to combat lung cancer.

The 2014 Breathe Deep DC walk is on November 2nd. October 26th will mark the two-year anniversary of my diagnosis when I was told I had one to two years to live. I have been the recipient of some of the very medical breakthroughs and ground-breaking developments LUNGevity is supporting and working to help fund.


Because we have been able to enjoy many more quality-filled days together as a family, it’s time we give back. Sheila and I have formed a Breathe Deep team and would love to have you join us. If you are interested in raising money for a great cause and/or going for a nice fall walk in our nation’s capital, please take a look at the links below. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at chip (dot) kennett (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.