- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Emily Bennett Taylor never would have run hurdles if it hadn’t been for her high school track coach, Angela Stark.

Stark saw her student’s potential and urged her on to two Idaho state championships in hurdles.

Now, Stark is giving Taylor another dream: motherhood.

Stark, 38, a health and physical education teacher at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Bluegrass, is carrying twin girls for her former student.

Taylor, who had never smoked, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at 28 and had chemotherapy, radiation and a 2013 surgery to remove her right lung. She is now cancer-free and lives in California with her husband, Miles. She works as a spokeswoman and advocate for the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.

“I will be a mother, and lung cancer could not and will not take that away,” Taylor said in a speech before the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Denver in September.

When Taylor began looking for a surrogate to carry the embryos that represented the dream of motherhood that pulled her through her cancer struggle, she approached Stark. Although the two women had gone more than a decade without seeing each other, they still felt close because as a young coach Stark bonded with Taylor, she said.

“I saw something in her, and we always had a special connection,” Start said. “The first group that you coach, you have a special connection.”

Stark talked with her husband, Aaron, about being a surrogate. He was supportive.

“Why not?” Stark said of her decision to carry the two girls, who have a target delivery date of mid-April. “I have this capability of giving her something that no one else can.”

Stark and her husband have three boys: 10, 7 and 3. She had easy pregnancies and deliveries with all three - her doctor had told her that with her trouble-free pregnancies, she could have as many children as she wanted - and ran throughout her pregnancies. She even ran until 19 weeks while pregnant with the twins.

Nonetheless, she and her husband were through having children.

Stark started following Taylor’s cancer journey through the online blog Embenkickscancer.wordpress.com. The blog is part of Taylor’s effort to tell her story. She wants it known so women will be more aggressive in pursuing medical diagnosis and treatment of lingering coughs.

Before being diagnosed with lung cancer, she “was incredibly young and superfit and healthy,” she said. “I didn’t really think about lung cancer.” In fact, she put off getting a chest X-ray because she thought doing so was “was a little over the top.”

“Fortunately, we’re learning that the rate of young people (with lung cancer) who are healthy and nonsmokers is rising,” Taylor said. “We don’t really know why. … We try to make the conversation not about smoking but about how anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.”

Taylor and her husband saved embryos before her cancer treatment. She called them her “beacon of hope. I felt like my family in the future was waiting for me.”

It wasn’t until after treatment and two years of “clean scans” that Taylor and her husband starting putting out feelers for a surrogate to carry the babies.

Stark’s involvement means she will be a part of their lives forever, Taylor said. Stark doesn’t feel that she is giving up the babies to Emily and Miles, but rather giving them back to their real parents, the people whose genetic material created the embryos.

“We’re already calling her ‘Auntie Angela,’” Taylor said. “They’re going to know how they were created. They’re going to know all of that. We think that makes it more special.”

Taylor and her husband will be coming to Lexington at the beginning of April to await the babies’ birth. Both sides of their family will come out to help take care of the newborns in California.

Stark hopes to return to work at SCAPA two weeks after the twins’ birth.

Said Stark: “I didn’t do it for any other reason than that I loved her all those years ago.”

___

Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, https://www.kentucky.com


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