When his big brother, Scott, was diagnosed with lung cancer, Jonathan Garet climbed up into the family’s attic to find a toy from their childhood—a yellow stuffed monkey his aunt had gotten him as a boy.
While the toy was meant for Jonathan, it was quickly absconded by his big brother—becoming his favorite childhood toy.
Jonathan, a Washington resident, thought it would bring Scott comfort during those days in the hospital.
After Scott lost his battle with lung cancer last year, the monkey became the symbol and namesake of the 5K run/walk the family planned for him.
A ‘Shocking’ Diagnosis
It was just last summer when Scott Garet noticed a slight pain in his back—but the longtime athlete shrugged it off and ran through the ache, putting in 11 miles the day before he finally broke down and visited the hospital.
The X-ray that Scott underwent that day didn’t turn out with any answers. So still dogged by pain, he sought the help of a chiropractor in late August.
He felt slightly better on Aug. 29th before being bed-ridden the next two days.
On Sept. 1, the pain got so bad he again sought treatment at a local hospital—this time undergoing an MRI that showed its source: A tumor in his lower back that was pressing on nerves there.
A second MRI showed there was also a tumor on his lung and liver and in his chest cavity, a diagnosis that came as a shock to both Scott’s family and the medical doctors treating him.
“Everyone was shocked. He was 26 with no health problems,” his brother said.
The family first heard the term "lung cancer" nearly two weeks after learning of the tumor, upon Scott's transfer from The Washington Hospital to UPMC.
Doctors were optimistic about his chances of survival, and Jonathan said so was his family.
But a second opinion at Johns Hopkins University confirmed: Scott had stage-four lung cancer.
What followed was chemotherapy treatment and hospital stays—but despite the complications that ensured, Scott was able to come home for Thanksgiving.
But the weekend after, the pain increased, and Scott began having a difficult time breathing—and was rushed to the hospital. Fluid was drained from around his heart a few days later.
It was in December that the family was called out of the room and told tragic news: That doctors were decreasingly optimistic about Scott’s condition.
For the first time the family was given a time frame for his survival. They were told Scott only had only weeks to live.
“It was at that point that he asked to be taken home,” Jonathan said. “He wanted to go home and that’s what we did.”
That was Dec. 13—and Jonathan said that as soon as his big brother got home, his blood pressure was on the decline and he was visibly calmer.
The next night he asked to be moved from his bedroom to the living room.
“He didn’t want to be alone—and at that point he probably knew what would happen,” Jonathan said. “I think he was just more comfortable around everyone.”
But comfort was soon fleeting.
“It got to the point where it was just pain all the time,” Jonathan said.
Then on Dec. 19, the family gathered for a Monday Night Football game featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite his pain, Scott asked Jonathan and their other brother, Michael, to play a game of catch.
So they did: The three of them, in the family living room, Scott tossing the small stress ball that sometimes gave him comfort from his wheelchair.
The next day, at 2:30 p.m., Scott died.
"He died peacefully, surrounded by his family," his brother said.
5K Planned to Raise Awareness, Honor Scott Garet
Life of the party.
Those were the kinds of phrases Jonathan uses to describe his big brother—and qualities that will be celebrated at the first-ever Flying Monkey 5K Run/Walk planned for Southpointe on Aug. 18.
The event begins at 9 a.m. for runners and 9:10 a.m. for walkers.
"We have race bag pick-up on (Aug. 16)," Jonathan said. "We have about 185 participants as of (Monday)."
The family also hopes to raise awareness of lung cancer, and hopefully get people to understand that it’s just not smokers who succumb to the disease.
"You realize life isn't as long as you might think," Jonathan said.
The cost to participate in the 5K, which will begin at the Crown Center parking lot, is $20—and all proceeds this year will benefit the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.
Can’t make it? Jonathan said those interested in supporting Scott and the Flying Monkey 5K Run/Walk can feel free to send donations to the Scott A. Garet Memorial Foundation (contact information is at the bottom of the story).
So far, Jonathan said that support for the event has been overwhelming—starting from the very beginning when the family attended a meeting to ask for permission to use Southpointe as the location for the race (it was one of Scott’s favorite places to run, his brother said).
He said he was shocked when Supervisor Elizabeth Cowden and audience member Mary Dalbo both immediately pledged $1,000 donations.
“We thought it was a joke until we received the check in the mail,” Jonathan said.
Members of the also immediately offered the department’s help, he said.
“It was overwhelming,” he said.
Editor’s Note: Interested in attending or donating to the event? Email organizers at flyingmonkey5K@gmail.com or visit the Facebook page here. “The more the merrier,” Jonathan said, adding that people should come hungry. “There will be plenty of food.”