Stephen Huff was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer almost four years ago.

Back then, in 2017, he was 29 years old. He was just embarking on his “adult life.”

“It was obviously a shock to get a cancer diagnosis, but to get lung cancer on top of that, while having never smoked, having never being around smoking, and not having a family history… it was really a trying time for me,” Huff said.

He was about to marry his fiancée, had just purchased a home and was beginning his summer vacation after his first year of teaching computer science in Williamson County Schools.

Stephen Huff and his wife, Emily, play with their dogs at their Thompsons Station, Tenn. home on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018.

As a former professional baseball player, he’d been healthy. He had rarely heard of anyone but smokers developing the illness and, on top of that, his cancer was deemed inoperable.

“That was the harsh reality I had to face,” he added. “The doctor said, ‘You know, sorry, Stephen. There’s no cure.'”

At stage 4, according to his doctors, one of the best case scenarios for lung cancer patients like Huff was and is still stability. When diagnosed, he was told that living five more years would be a positive.

According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for all stages of small non-small cell lung cancer is about 25%. The rate is less than half of that for small-cell.

“You know, with that number, I try not to let it define me, but it’s a reality, something I have to face every single day,” he said.

In an attempt to find answers, he began his own research and found that lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths and that you really only need lungs to get lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, each year, more people die of lung cancer than those who die of of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

This was news to him, and he knew it’d be news to many. After going from baseball player to teacher, yet another career change emerged.

Huff and his wife, Emily, started the Huff Project.

They both work full-time, yet they took on this side project in an effort to erase the stigma associated with lung cancer and to make sure others get the right support and facts. The project’s mission is to “fund lung cancer projects that ultimately lead to increased survival.”

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