“Almost nobody knows that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month,” said Chris Draft, former linebacker for the Washington Redskins. “It’s not just a smoker’s disease. Anyone can get lung cancer.”
Draft’s wife, Keasha, a nonsmoker, was one such victim. She was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in December 2010. The couple then launched Team Draft at their wedding in November 2011. One month later, Keasha lost her fight to lung cancer at age 38.
Lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and melanoma cancers combined. Yet many people remain frighteningly unaware of the disease. The stigma that it is “a smoker’s disease” has negatively impacted the amount of personal and financial support dedicated to lung cancer research.
Chris Draft has made it his mission to educate the public about lung cancer. He is the leader of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, which has a specific lung cancer initiative, Team Draft. This organization is leading a national campaign to “Change the Face of Lung Cancer.”
The personal inspiration of the foundation drives Draft to visit cancer centers around the country — he’s been to about 90 so far — and to advocating and to educate.
“We’re fighting for people and creating hope,” Draft said. “We focus on the survivors, bringing images of their smiles and laughter — those are the faces of lung cancer.”
Team Draft is carrying out a Survivor at Every Stadium initiative, which launched last year. The goal is to focus on survivors of the disease, educating attendees of sporting events nationwide.
On Nov. 4, Team Draft dubbed the Monday night football game — the Green Bay Packers vs. the Chicago Bears — a Lung Cancer Awareness Game. Lung cancer survivors helped raised the American flag at the beginning of the game and were recognized in the fourth quarter.
Draft was at the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Nov. 6. The Murtha Center at Walter Reed partnered with Team Draft, the Department of Veterans, Lung Cancer Alliance and the Vietnam Veterans of America to hold its second annual Lung Cancer Screening Initiative. Veterans or beneficiaries were evaluated for lung cancer risk.
“Early detection, in any cancer, is the best first step,” Draft said. “Because of early detection, more people are living longer and living stronger.”
“We will continue to advocate for this stigmatized disease, continue to support survivors, and continue to educate people,” he said. Team Draft continued its work at the Nov. 10 Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars game, another Lung Cancer game, to keep on spreading the word. “We hope to change the face of lung cancer,” Draft said.