Elway Talks About Losing His Sister To Lung Cancer

John Elway led the Denver Broncos to two Superbowl victories but imagine how powerless he felt when a disease took his twin sister's life.

Jana Elway-Sever died of lung cancer three years ago. November is lung cancer awareness month and Elway is hoping that by sharing his experience, he can raise awareness about this deadly disease.

"I can still remember the day that she died. She whispered in my ear, she was having a very difficult time, went through tremendous pain through the whole thing. She just whispered in my ear, 'I just wanna live,'" Elway said.

That was July 23, 2002 -- the day that Jana passed away.

"I got her picture right here. I see her every morning," Elway said, pointing to a photo of Jana on his desk.

Growing up, Elway said he and his twin sister had a special bond.

"We were never in the same class. I'd have like to have been. She was always keeping me out of trouble, pointing my thermometer and compass to make sure I was going in the right direction," said Elway.

So, losing her to lung cancer -- the most deadly form of the disease -- was overwhelming.

"I think with Jana, it was something. It had an effect, because she was probably my closest friend, she was my twin sister," Elway said.

"To lose somebody that close to you, you don't know the impact until you lose them," said Elway.

When Jana was originally diagnosed, Elway said he and his family were shocked.

"In my immediate family this is the first thought that we'd had, hearing that dreaded word, cancer," Elway.

Especially since Jana had never smoked.

"Because she was in Stage 4 and it had metasticized. We knew it was an uphill battle but we always had great hope ... there was gonna be something, we were able to head if off. But we weren't able to do it," Elway said.

As the Elway family faced one tragedy, life delivered another blow.

"Then, about two months after my sister was diagnosed my dad died of a heart attack, so everything came down at once," Elway said.

Devastated by his father's death, Elway held out hope his twin sister would survive.

"I guess that I, because I'd never been touched by it before, thought she was gonna be OK. That everything was gonna work out. I just never allowed myself to think she wasn't gonna get better," Elway said.

Losing two of the most important people in his life so close together has forever changed the way Elway looks at his own life.

"You look at how fragile life is, for us to live it to the fullest and have our health, to be able to find that special thing in life we're all looking for and that's true joy," Elway said.

He agreed to open up about something very personal in hopes that anyone who have ignored symptoms or put off quitting smoking will be inspired to see a doctor and take better care of yourselves.

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