At his wedding, a former NFL player announced his new foundation to fight cancer. A month later, his wife lost her battle with cancer.
This Monday, doctors and scientists move into the new Cancer Research Center on Tulane Avenue, and that former football player says this is as big as the Super Bowl.
Chris Draft left the world of tackling on the gridiron to tackling a killer - lung cancer.
"With lung cancer, right now the big thing is called targeted therapies and you hear that and you say, 'Oh well, it's targeted therapies.' " said Draft, who also is an ambassador for the NFL and does radio and TV in Atlanta. "But it's targeted therapies and that's a pill that you can take, a pill that potentially your hair doesn't fall out. Now we're saying you got to shout that. You've got to get up on the mountain top. You've got to scream about it."
Chris knows first-hand the pain and loss of cancer.
"If my wife lived another six months, then she would have got to her birthday. Her birthday was May 13 and last year, May 13 was Mother's Day. So, six months would have meant instead of me and her mom going to church together and going outside (to her grave) to see her, well she would have been right there with us," Draft said, tears filling his eyes.
Keasha Draft never smoked. She wanted Draft to be the mouthpiece for doctors' research. So he made the new Louisiana Cancer Research Center and LSU Health Sciences Center's Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center priority Super Bowl stops. He wants people in this area to know that major cancer research will be going on in this new building, and that all of us can sign up to be in trials with the latest cancer treatments. These local cancer survivors have joined in the studies.
"It was amazing - very amazing - for someone to come out and touch me like he did. It's wonderful and I enjoyed every bit," said 49-year-old New Orleanian Johnnie Brumfield.
He started smoking at 18. Now when he sees people smoking, he lifts up his shirt and shows his scars from having a lung removed. Draft gave him tickets to a Saints-Panthers game earlier.
"It gives me a lot of hope with the cancer and all. The tumors are not growing. Some of them are actually shrinking," said Madeline Borrouso of Metairie who has lung cancer even though she never smoked. It was found in a doctor visit after she had a stroke.
If you have any kind of cancer and want to be part of the clinical trials program call 504-568-2428.
Chris Draft Family Foundation
Stats on Chris Draft in the NFL
Background on Team Draft and Scott Cancer Center:
After a 12-year career in the NFL where he played linebacker for the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Washington Redskins, Chris Draft, President, and CEO of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, founded a very different team. Team Draft was created by Chris and his wife Keasha during Keasha’s year-long struggle with stage IV lung cancer which claimed her life in late 2011.
As a former Charlotte Hornets Honeybee dancer and member of Clemson University’s Rally Cat dance squad, Keasha was an energetic vibrant young woman who had never smoked when she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in December 2010. At the time, her only symptom was a slight shortness of breath. Despite the diagnosis and knowing the long odds they faced, Keasha and Chris decided to fight back. On November 27, 2011, standing side-by-side, they launched Team Draft at their wedding. One month later, Keasha lost her courageous fight and died at the age of 38.
According to the Chris Draft Family Foundation, Team Draft is dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and increasing badly needed research funding by shattering the misconception that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease.” The fact is anybody can get lung cancer. Yet, despite the fact that thousands of people who have never smoked—including Keasha—are diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States each year, Team Draft says the smoking stigma negatively impacts lung cancer research funding, which pales in comparison to funding for other major cancers and diseases. Team Draft is out to change all that by using the unique platform available to Draft as a former NFL player and nationally recognized community leader and health advocate to lead a national campaign to change the face of lung cancer—a campaign that has, to date, taken Team Draft to more than 50 of the top cancer treatment and research centers in North America.
The research that led the EPA to designate second-hand smoke as a Class A carcinogen was conducted by Dr. Elizabeth “Terry” Fontham right here at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans. Now Dean of the LSUHSC School of Public Health and Associate Director of the LSUHSC Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, Dr. Fontham conducted a landmark study of women who had never smoked yet died of lung cancer through second-hand exposure to cigarette smoke.