Jeff Wigbels is a long time surfer, triathlete, marathon runner, golfer and skier.
He never played football. Yet when he refers to one of the most important persons in his life, he calls Dr. Roy S. Herbst, his “quarterback.” It was this energetic quarterback who led the powerful offense on Jeff’s battle against stage four non-smoker lung cancer, making accurate and aggressive calls and staying mobile with his thinking to meet the fierce cancer’s every malignant maneuver.
Nine years ago, while he and his wife Tiffany welcomed their second child, another doctor told Jeff he had a lung tumor the size of a baseball. He had never smoked.
He faced death twice, but never lost sight of the goal, charging toward good health with intense optimism, vehement strength and ardent support from friends, colleagues and family. Dr. Herbst and the team called in pharmaceutical powerhouse players and thanks to the success of a trial drug (now FDA approved), and targeted therapies, Jeff has been cancer free since. He and Tiffany and their kids, Jack and Ava, live in Buckhead and he is senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and the recipient of the American Cancer Society’s 2016 Hope Award at the annual Hope Ball later this month.
“When thinking of who our honoree would be for the 2016 Hope Ball, we wanted to connect the mission of the American Cancer Society, the passion found within those that want to make a difference in the fight, and a story that inspires and brings hope to the future. Let’s just say we hit the lottery when we asked Jeff and his family if they would allow us to honor him with this award.” says Shari Henning, executive vice president and south Atlantic division operating officer for the ACS.
His story is miraculous, but the wonder and work continue.
The power of Jeff’s determination and close network of influential doctors and important researchers he met during his treatment and recovery has empowered him to help hundreds of other cancer patients – friends, friends of friends, colleagues, cousins of colleagues and more. “I can talk to them about the process, about going to places like Yale, Mass General, MD Anderson and others, what questions to ask to find out exactly what sort of cancer they have and how to attack it,” says Jeff.
Together with the world’s top lung cancer researchers, hospitals, clinics and physicians, as a patient advocate Jeff is pushing trials and education for targeted therapy as an option to standard care. This is individualized and aggressive care to fight cancer.
“We’re one of more than a dozen Dream Teams launched by Stand Up 2 Cancer and The American Cancer Society and funded by individuals or collaboration, innovation, acceleration, targeted therapy, and translational research,” explains Jeff. He’s passionate about this. And, about everything in his life. Always has been.
He’s served on numerous boards (locally for the High Museum and Atlanta Ballet); lectured at his alma mater, Penn State University Graduate School of Business (he’s a member of the Wharton Alumni Club here); and launched foundations for veterans, athletes and lung cancer research all while managing a very successful career in Wealth Asset Management with Morgan Stanley where he’s been for 33 years.
It’s for this tenacity and dedication to lung cancer research that Jeff Wigbels is being honored by the American Cancer Society. “Jeff’s dedication to both fundraising to find a cure as well as his compassion to help others who have heard those same words — ‘You have cancer’– fit all to perfectly into the night we have planned to celebrate and honor him, Tiffany, Ava and Jack,” says Henning.