La Jollan Mike Stevens fights lung cancer with a battle plan for all

Mike Stevens
Mike Stevens

At age 43, La Jolla resident Mike Stevens was a healthy non-smoker with a wife and two children. He never thought he’d have lung cancer. When he was diagnosed in 2005, Stevens had owned La Jolla Photo & Imaging for 23 years. He sold the business to undergo chemo treatments and spend his time raising public awareness and research funds to fight lung cancer. Six years later, after a dozen rounds of chemotherapy, Stevens is one of the 3 to 5 percent of people who survive stage IV lung cancer.

In 2009, Stevens and three other San Diego lung cancer survivors started the

San Diego Breath of Hope Cancer Walk

  1. This year Stevens will lead the third annual walk with another La Jollan co-chair Jane Marks. They invite other residents to join the walk at 9 a.m. Sunday, May 1 at Cancer Survivors Park on Harbor Island. Preregistration at

sandiegobreathofhope.org

is $30; onsite $35; kids $15. Participants will receive a T-shirt and ticket to the June 4 Padres Game. The walk is in association with the

Lung Cancer Alliance

(LCA), a national nonprofit.

What brought you to La Jolla?

I came here in 1978 as a freshman at UCSD. I loved diving and wanted to go into marine biology. I met my wife at UCSD and somehow wound up in the photography field where I bought La Jolla One Hour Photo when I was 23.

What makes this area special to you?

I always loved the natural beauty of La Jolla and San Diego. Having graduated from high school in the L.A. area, it was great to live in a place with no traffic and natural beauty. The days of no traffic are long gone. When I was in the photo business, I got to see many historical pictures of La Jolla and San Diego. I have always enjoyed learning about that history. One of my favorite times was whenever Ellen Revelle would come into my shop and tell me stories of times gone by. It was great to hear about the history from someone who was there.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you improve in the area?

It would be great to stop the bickering about issues that mean so little in the overall picture. It gets really frustrating listening to decade-old debates about seals and crosses. Enough already. Sometimes I have to laugh at the energy that is put into these issues when that same energy and money could be used to improve people’s lives and help those in need.

Who or what inspires you?

I have been battling stage IV lung cancer for almost 6 years now. It is a disease for which most people don’t survive the first year. I often ask why I’m still here. Many friends have told me that I have a purpose.

The day after I was diagnosed, a survivor (who I did not know all that well) sat down with my wife and I and explained what to expect and what questions we should be asking the doctor. For two people scared to death, these were the first positive words we could focus on. This person’s actions have inspired me to pay it forward to as many people as I can. Probably because of that one kind person, I became a cancer advocate and the California chair for the Lung Cancer Alliance.

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