Russell was diagnosed with stage IV non-smokers lung cancer in August of 2015. The cancer had already spread to his bones and various other locations in his body at the time of diagnosis. During a brief hospital stay to drain fluid from around his heart (a side effect of cancer), Russell began chemotherapy treatment. The chemotherapy was very successful and Russell continued to commute to work at the US Department of Energy, Western Area Power Administration. He retired at the end of April 2017 from full-time work and worked for one additional year as a part-time retired annuitant until the end of April 2018. During the Spring of 2018 the cancer began to return while Russel was on his chemotherapy treatment. He stopped the chemotherapy and moved to an immunotherapy treatment. During his time on immunotherapy, the cancer reoccurred in known areas and also showed up in new places such as the liver. In August of 2018 the decision was made to return to chemotherapy treatment.