John Wayne’s Granddaughter Reveals Some of the Duke’s Final Wishes

by Liz Holland
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John Wayne left a remarkable legacy before he passed away of stomach cancer in 1979. Anita La Cava Swift shared in an interview that there was one very important final wish from her grandfather.

“My grandfather, when he was dying, asked his family to find a cure for cancer by using his image and likeness, so that’s what we’ve been doing,” Swift told FOX 4. 

Wayne’s family continues his legacy with efforts to fight cancer through The John Wayne Cancer Foundation. The Foundation aims to educate the public, especially young people, on steps they can take towards protecting themselves against preventable cancers. Additionally, the foundation prioritizes bringing  “courage, strength, and grit to the fight against cancer.”

The legendary western actor beat lung cancer in 1964, which Swift says she believes may have been preventable. 15 years after his recovery, he, unfortunately, lost a battle with stomach cancer. Swift shared that her grandfather became passionate about helping others fight the disease towards the end of his life. 

How the John Wayne Cancer Foundation is Educating the Public

The foundation’s current main prevention program, “Block the Blaze,” encourages children to take steps to protect their skin. This includes wearing sunscreen, hats, protective clothing, and seeking shade in sunny conditions. La Cava Swift shared that the program has already educated 500,000 school children about melanoma. 

In the interview, La Cava Swift also touched on the importance of both men and women getting routine checkups. 

“If you are really good about getting your mammograms… Men getting your prostate checked every year, and getting a body check for moles, you can catch the cancer early,” she said. “That’s one of the things we’re really proud of.”

In a 2017 interview, Swift opened up about her position as President of the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary. “Our primary goal is to raise funds for the John Wayne Cancer Institute and for educational outreach about cancer prevention and early detection,” Swift explained.

Western Legend’s Granddaughter Opens Up

“Breast cancer survivors founded the Auxiliary more than 35 years ago; my mother [Mary Antonia “Toni” La Cava] included. She died of lung cancer in 2000, and most of our founding members have also passed on, but we’ve been getting a lot of new, younger members, which we’re thrilled about. And I say that as a 55-year-old woman who will forever be sitting at the kid’s table, if you know what I mean,” she shared with a laugh. 

The Auxiliary hosts the annual “Odyssey Ball,” which is a huge fundraising event that supports the foundation. The foundation also gives awards to guests of honor at the event, commending their contributions to the institute. 

To learn more about the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, you can visit the institute’s official website here.

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