Former Falcon starts cancer fundraiser for Super Bowl

January 2nd, 2015 — Former Atlanta Falcon Chris Draft is using healthy competition and the lure of the Super Bowl to raise money fight lung cancer.

The “Team Draft Super Bowl Challenge” gives lung cancer survivors the chance to compete against one another to collect donations for the National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer–a campaign dedicated to raising public awareness about the true nature of the disease and shattering the misconception that lung cancer is just a “smoker’s disease.”

Draft lost his wife to lung cancer in December 2011.

Keasha Draft was an energetic, vibrant young woman who never smoked and was the picture of health when she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in October 2010.

A year later, on their wedding day, the two launched Team Draft, to fight lung cancer. Chris carries on the fight today.

“The real deal is anyone can get lung cancer, like my wife, who was 37 years old and healthy and never smoked,” Draft said.

Samantha Mixon of Savannah, Georgia, is one of the survivors taking part in the Super Bowl fundraising challenge.

Mixon, who is originally from Jonesboro, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in November 2012.

Mixon met Draft through her outreach efforts at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. She is a 34-year-old mother who never smoked.

As part of the Super Bowl Challenge, the lung cancer survivor, whose Team raises the most money by January 1, 2015, will represent Team Draft in Arizona during Super Bowl week.

The challenge runs through the end of the year.

Steven Dubinett, M.D., UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

September 5th, 2013

• Professor of Medicine and Pathology, Director, UCLA Lung Cancer Research Program in the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
• Chief, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and Principal Investigator for the UCLA Lung Cancer SPORE

Dr. Steven Dubinett has extensive experience in academic investigation, administration, mentorship and peer review. He has received federal peer-reviewed funding for translational lung cancer research for the past 20 years. Dr. Dubinett is nationally recognized for translational research in the immunobiology of lung cancer. Building on original discoveries regarding the role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of lung cancer he has developed a translational research program, which now utilizes these laboratory-based discoveries in the clinical setting. He has been involved in mentoring trainees at all levels in a peer-review funded, translational research program. Twenty of the 23 post-doctoral fellows from his research program are currently continuing in either academic or industry research careers. He has been active both within the training programs in the UCLA academic community and, nationally, in setting policy as a member of foundation and NIH training committees on training. He recently served on the NCI Translational Research Working Group and has served as a mentor for the American Association for Cancer Research grant writing workshop for the past seven years.

He has served on numerous study sections and special emphasis panels for the NIH including chair of the study section for the Lung SPOREs, reviewer for PO1s, the EDRN, Clinical Oncology and Tumor Microenvironment study sections and site review teams for the NCI intramural programs. Dr. Dubinett serves on numerous committees for professional societies including the ASCO Education Committee, the AACR – Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Awards Selection Committee, the ATS Clinical Problems Program Committee and the organizing committee for the IASLC World Conference on Lung Cancer. He currently serves on the External Advisory Boards (EABs) for the Lung Cancer SPOREs at Colorado and Vanderbilt and the mesothelioma PO1 at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as a member of the NCI TRWG. He has received competitive awards for lung cancer research including the Cecile Lehman Mayer Research Award, the Helen Neufeld Award and the Career Investigator Award from the American Lung Association. In 2008 Dr. Dubinett received the American Thoracic Society Award for Scientific Achievement. He was the Scientific Program Chairperson for the Seventh Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

Steven Dubinett, M.D.,, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Michael Hanley, MD, University of Virginia Healthcare

September 4th, 2013

Michael Hanley, M.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Radiology and Medical Imaging
Division of Body Imaging

M.D. Degree: University of Virginia School of Medicine 2006
Residency: Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC (Diagnostic Radiology)
Fellowship: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA (Non-Invasive Cardiovascular)
ABMS Certification: Diagnostic Radiology
Clinical Practice: Radiology: Cancer: Interventional Radiology Vascular Diseases

Michael Hanley, MD, University of Virginia Healthcare from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Former Redskins Player Starts Cancer Foundation In Wife’s Memory

August 18th, 2013

RICHMOND, VA—Friday marks the last day of the first Washington Redskins training camp in Richmond, and to mark the occasion, a former player visited the field to share an important message about lung cancer.

While there’s plenty of action out on the field, it’s on the sidelines that Chris Draft tackles an issue close to his heart—he fights lung cancer for his wife Lakeasha, who lost her battle with the cancer in December 2011.

“Prior to her diagnosis, she was challenging me, an NFL player, to do more,” former Washington Redskin player Chris Draft said.

Like 15 percent of lung cancer patients, Lakeasha never smoked, and Draft says his wife was active.

Draft says his wife’s only symptom was a shortness of breath just days before her stage 4 diagnosis.

“Anyone can get lung cancer, and it’s important that we fight for more research, more dollars so we can make sure more people live,” Draft said.

Ralph Burton, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in December, was told just this week that he was winning the fight against cancer.

“Blood tests, chest X-ray and ACT scan and all were normal,” Ralph Burton, a lung cancer survivor said.

Burton celebrates his second chance, while remembering countless patients like Lakeasha who didn’t make it.

Each year lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma combined. It impacts men, women, all races and ages, and Draft hopes more awareness will save more lives.

“With our campaign, our national campaign to change the face of lung cancer, that’s what we’re fighting for, we’re fighting for the people,” Draft said.

Other symptoms of lung cancer include everything from a cough to wheezing, bone pain and headache.
WRIC Richmond News and Weather –

O’s PR Director battles stage four cancer

August 17th, 2013

BALTIMORE (WMAR) – She had champagne poured on her head a few weeks ago, and we can’t wait to pop the cork again when she scores another victory over lung cancer.
See this picture? Monica Barlow is in the middle surrounded by friends. Remember this picture.

“I try to think about cancer as little as possible,” said Barlow.

We cannot stop thinking of a 35-year-old, who runs marathons, eats broccoli, and has never took a swig of a cigarette only to find out she has lung cancer.

“There are no why did this happen,” she said.

She was married for what seemed like minutes before the vow of in sickness and in health soared to the top of the medical charts.

A lingering cough and her husband chased her to the doctor, who said, cancer chased to her lymph nodes and liver.

“Which made it stage four, as bad as it gets,” said Barlow.

Then her family, the Orioles. This year of the birds, became the year of the Barlow – giving her hope.

“Everybody rallied, incredible,” she said.

If the Orioles can show us a miracle why can’t we see a miracle in Monica.

So tomorrow will come and she’ll take a pill that wasn’t available to her two years ago.

That is another sign. Then the next day will come and more after that, and her smile will never disappear.

“Not going to define my life,” said Barlow.

Remember the picture, see all her friends – she now has a bigger fan club.

As we use the standing room only section in her heart to wish her the taste of champagne, when she beats this disease.

For more information about lung cancer, visit the National Lung Cancer Partnership website .
Monica Barlow is a spokesperson for LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s largest lung cancer-focused nonprofit. LUNGevity funds the most promising research for the early detection and successful treatment of lung cancer, and provides information, resources and a community to patients and caregivers. To learn more, go to:

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Orioles ‘Zill Billy’ usher is Swinging at Lung Cancer

August 17th, 2013

BALTIMORE (WMAR) – The familiar sounds of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” during the 7 th inning stretch at Camden Yards brought Charlie Zill front and center to entertain fans as his character, Zill Billy.
“I was playing around one game and put in the teeth,” he said. “I had on a pair of suspenders and turned my hat sideways. I started dancing around, and people seemed to like it.”

An usher at Camden Yards for 17 seasons, Zill followed his passion for the Orioles that dated back to days spent at games with his uncle.
“He was like a mentor to me,” Zill said. “Ever since then, I wanted to work for the Orioles.”
Zill got that chance in 1996, quickly becoming a favorite around the yard. “It’s a privilege to work for the orioles,” he said.
Then, in 1998, after a little coaxing from fans, the Zill Billy was born.

“I’d never have done this if it wasn’t for them,” Zill said. “They created me and got me to do this.”
Zill kept the tradition going season after season, adding new steps and costume pieces along the way. “Each season, I tried to add something to make it better.”

Then in 2009, his life took a dramatic and irreversible turn.
“I had a chronic cough and went to the doctor. That’s when they told me I had lung cancer,” he said.
It was stage four cancer that came with a grim prognosis. “They gave me a year to live when I was diagnosed,” he said.
That was four years ago. In that time, Zill decided to keep dancing and thrilling the crowd as long as his body would let him.
“I believe my working for the o’s was medicine for me,” he said, fighting back tears. “Getting out there, doing my thing… I believe it helped. It helped me a lot.”

Eventually, the effects of the cancer proved too much, and last season during game two of the ALDS at Camden Yards, the Zill Billy knew it was time to give fans his last dance.
“I remember being so weak,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but God gave me the will power to go on.”
Today, in Red Lion, Penn., 60 miles from Baltimore, the rhythm of chimes, dancing on a windy morning, replaces the hum of the ballpark. Charlie Zill sits on a couch inside his red brick home tethered to an oxygen tank, fighting for every breath he has left.

“It’s hard for me to walk from here to the bathroom, and I’m out of breath, even with oxygen on,” he said.
He’s physically unable to return to Camden Yards now, but he’s not yet ready to throw in the towel. “I try to keep hope,” he said. “That’s the best thing to keep.”

He’s hoping for the outside chance of a cure and maybe one more trip to the ball park. He won’t be going there to work. This time, he gets to be the fan.

“I’m going to try. I don’t know,” he said. “Only the Lord knows, and I’ll let the spirits move me.”
If you’d like to send cards or letters Charlie Zill, you can send them to:
P.O. Box 604
Red Lion, PA 17356

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Kathy Leiser: Changing the face of Lung Cancer

August 9th, 2013

Many people diagnosed with cancer ask “why me?” Kathy Leiser asks herself “what if?”
What if she hadn’t moved from Texas to Nashville to be closer to her two grown sons in 2009? What if she hadn’t heard that public service announcement about a Vanderbilt clinical trial looking for former smokers when she was headed to work that day? What if she, who spent most of her life caring for her family and let her own health care needs lapse, hadn’t picked up the phone to join the study?
She believes her guardian angels were looking out for her.

Leiser enrolled in the Nashville Lung Cancer Screening Trial with Pierre Massion, M.D., in 2011 to determine whether testing current and former smokers with a combination of bronchoscopy, CT scan, chest X-ray and pulmonary testing would result in the early detection of lung cancer.
“I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me,” said Leiser, a 63-year-old former smoker. “I had some shortness of breath but I wasn’t worried. As smokers, we are aware of the consequences of our actions. I just thought getting all those tests, and for free, was a good idea.”
Three days after testing, Massion called to say they found something and asked Leiser to come back in.

“I didn’t think it was going to be anything bad, bad. I don’t know why but I just didn’t,” said Leiser. “I took my son, Matt, with me because I knew he would remember things that I didn’t. Dr. Massion showed us my CT scan and up at the top of my right lung, there was a white spot.”
The spot was relatively small, only 2.8 centimeters, but Massion said he was 95 percent sure it was malignant. Next came a PET scan to determine if cancer was present anywhere else in her body, and the result was negative. After a consultation with thoracic surgeon Eric Grogan, M.D., MPH, Leiser underwent surgery to remove the Stage I nodule and the upper lobe of her right lung.
Four days later, she was released from the hospital and spent two tough months recovering at home, with her sons taking shifts to make sure their mother had round-the-clock care.

Today Leiser is cancer free, but she stops short of calling herself a cancer survivor.
“I got off easy, easy, easy compared to people that have to go through chemotherapy and radiation. Trying to hold onto a job while undergoing chemotherapy, now that’s a cancer survivor. I’m just someone who had surgery,” said Leiser.
Leiser takes ownership for her years of smoking, but cautions that smoking should not be used to stigmatize individuals and prevent them from seeking care. Smoking is not the only unhealthy behavior people engage in and lung cancer in never-smokers is still the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths in the country.

“I had a chest X-ray the year before my diagnosis, and no one saw anything,” said Leiser. “Without a CT scan, they never would have found it. That’s why I hope that a CT scan will become the standard of care, much like mammograms are for breast cancer and colonoscopies are for colon cancer.”

Lung cancer pill shows promise, CU patient is beating the odds

August 8th, 2013

DENVER — A lung cancer patient is beating the odds thanks to a new drug he’s receiving from doctors at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Mark P. Marini is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

July 27th, 2013

Thanks for selecting me as a Team Draft’s recipient as it was a special day for my wife and I and the owner of my company Anthony Cafaro Jr and his wonderful Gayle . I have been through quite a lot since my diagnosis in early June 2009. I’m a former smoker that quit in 1998 and became a fitness freak in 2001. I became passionate with running and took up competitive racing in both 5k’s and 10k’s at a local park in 2004 and was running about 30 races a year while running and training all year round . While on a six mile run after work with an attorney at my office, I thought that I felt good but on the way home I began to cough up fresh blood. I immediately went to my internist and following a week of testing team of doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, I was informed that I had lung cancer. My thoracic surgeon told me the next sixth months would be hell but I was in the best psychical condition of my life and I’m a type A personality with a great attitude so he told me I could beat this disease if I remained positive and upbeat . I did a split course treatment which was two “zaps” of radiation at 6:00 AM and 2:30, and then had chemotherapy on Mondays after radiation. Mondays were long as I left my house at 4:30 am and would return home at about 9:00PM. Luckily it was for only 12 treatments, but it was very exhausting . PS during those 12 days of treatment I ran about 4 miles at noon outside the Cleveland Clinic in between chemo and radiation treatments.

I then had surgery to remove my upper chamber of my left lung along with a portion of my lower lung. My thoracic surgeon prepared me by telling me it was the one of the most painful surgery’s known and he was not kidding. I got of the hospital in 5 days (normal stay was 6 to 8 days ) as I was determined to be normal . I was told most people take 2 months off on short term disability. I laughed when told that as I was working remote from my house about 10 days after my surgery. Although not moving very quickly I even walked a two mile fund raiser with my lovely wife about 16 days after my surgery. I was in the office about 16 days after my surgery.

After the surgery I had to finish up another round of radiation ( 2 weeks of double “zaps”) and chemotherapy for another three months . I’m proud to say, all while missing just a few days of work . I exercised 4 to 5 cardio sessions from the day I came home from my surgery also started weight lifting two times a week . And the reason I did all this was normalcy – most cancer patients just want to be normal and I was more determined than ever to make that happen !

I have been blessed by the following :1) a great support system in including my entire family but a special thanks to the following , my mother , my sisters, my sons and the true inspiration of my life my wife of 30 years as we have now been together 36 years. We met when I was I was a senior in high school and she was a freshman – she has been a rock thru this whole process and also our entire marriage 2) A great company that I work for called the Cafaro Company a private family owned by the same family since 1950 who gave me the greatest support and incredible medical coverage. The company owns and operates about 30,000, 000 square feet of mall and strip centers coast to coast 3 ) I was lucky and blessed to have one the top hospitals in the world a mere 60 miles from my home the world renowned Cleveland Clinic . My medical team consists of Dr Pennell oncologist, Dr Videdic radiologist, Dr Murthy thoracic surgeon, Dr Barnett neuro surgeon, and Dr Stevens neurologist. I termed them “the dream team of Doctors”. They were all so honest and compassionate with me which helped me thru the whole process.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there. I had three straight years of clean CT scans and my first of 2012 was clean back in March. I was losing some short memory and not finishing my thoughts so my Doctors wanted a MRI of my brain in late March. After a few tests, a malignant tumor was discovered on the left frontal lobe of my brain. I underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and followed up with three weeks of radiation just to be safe. Again I missed about four days of work and was working remotely. I was back to work a couple of days later and traveling to a convention in Las Vegas only three weeks after my last radiation treatment (not really the brightest thing I ever did) .

The objective of this email is show you my plight and how with a great medical team, a great support system , and a great company I probably would not be here today writing this email . Again true special thanks to my wife , my “dream team” at the Clinic and not only the great Doctors but a staff from janitors , nurses, to physician assistants that are the best , most compassionate, well trained and positive employees in this country. Lastly to one the best organizations to work for in country the Cafaro Company in particular our Co President Anthony Cafaro Jr whose support, compassion, and caring nature are so heart felt and appreciated .

Now you can see how truly blessed that I am regardless what I have been through . My prognosis is very good and I have resumed full cardio activities, weight training at my gym about two months after my brain surgery. Yes I’m very lucky as I know that my faith and my God will always look over me and be there every step of the way .

I wake up every day which I consider a true blessing, Please feel free to pass this email along at either Chris Draft Foundation or the Cleveland Clinic. To all have great Holiday Season and Happy Healthy and Prosperous New Year. Hopefully I can meet Mr Draft thru my travels as it would be an honor to do so .

Mark Marini is Changing the Face of Lung cancer from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.


Not just a smoker’s disease — Former NFL player raises awareness for lung cancer

June 21st, 2013

Lung cancer is often perceived as a smoker’s disease. But a hard look at lung cancer diagnosis data reveals that 45 percent of patients with the disease are former smokers, and an additional 15 percent never smoked at all.

For Chris Draft, a former San Francisco 49ers linebacker who also played for the Stanford football team, this last statistic is all too real.

His wife, Keasha Draft, never smoked. She was 37 in December 2010 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. She died a year later, a month after she married Chris. According to the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s website, at the time of diagnosis, “her only ‘symptom’ was a slight shortness of breath a few days earlier.”

Typical symptoms of lung cancer are notoriously subtle and often do not appear until the late stages of the disease. They can range from a chronic cough to a slight shortness of breath or an ache in the back, chest or arm. As a result, only 16 percent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed when the cancer is still localized and easily treatable. There is also no current approved screening for early detection of lung cancer. This combination results in a devastatingly low the five-year survival rate.

According a National Cancer Institute study conducted from 1973 to 2008, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 16.3 percent—significantly lower than colon cancer (65.2 percent), breast cancer (90 percent), and prostate cancer (99 percent).

However, lung cancer research is also underfunded compared to these other cancers. According to a 2012 American Cancer Society study, lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most fatal cancers—colon, cancer, and prostate—combined. However, it receives significantly less federal funding than the other three. Breast cancer alone received five times more federal funding than lung cancer in 2011, according to the Lung Cancer Foundation of America.

According to Draft, lung cancer research is underfunded because of the overemphasis on the link between the disease and smoking.

“All you see is a prevention message,” Draft said. “People think that guys who don’t smoke don’t get lung cancer.”

Draft and his wife launched Team Draft at their wedding in November 2011, hoping to use Keasha’s story to change the face of lung cancer, and to prevent it from being labeled a “smoker’s disease.”

Since Team Draft’s inception, Draft has visited over 80 medical centers nationwide.

“I wanted to find out what was being done, out there, in the field,” Draft said. “And who better to go to than the doctors?”

Draft is not only concerned with educating the public about the devastating effects of lung cancer, but also of the efforts being made to fight the disease. He says he hopes to motivate the public donate money and advocate for more lung cancer research.

“The key is hope,” Draft said emphatically. “With every cancer center that we’ve visited, there’s change. Changes, even changes that are small, are cause for hope.”

Last Tuesday, Draft visited Stanford Hospital. Prior to his visit, the medical center had never offered a tour of its newest lung cancer treatment facilities to anyone but government officials.

“We don’t do this for everyone, with this many physicians,” Whitney Greene, the service line administrator for the oncology department, said. “We did it for [Draft] because of his connection to Stanford and the 49ers, as well as his efforts to spread lung cancer awareness.”

Although the prognosis for lung cancer patients is still grim, new technology and treatment techniques have surfaced in disease research. Stanford Hospital is currently collaborating with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, originally named Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, to devise the next line of linear accelerators machines to use in treating lung cancer.

The newest linear acceleration device, the Cyberknife, has the ability to track the tumor’s movement throughout the treatment procedure, while firing targeted radiation beams at the tumor. This device increases accuracy in comparison to previous radiation techniques, where tumors were not tracked during the treatment procedure.

The hospital has also made improvements in the patients’ comfort and quality of life. Among other developments, oral medication replaces certain treatments that require time in the hospital, and mesh face masks are now used in place of uncomfortable metal head-clamps that keep patients still while receiving treatment.

“Maybe [this campaign] can extend [a lung cancer patient's] life for two years more,” Draft said. “Some people think, oh, it’s only two years. But when you put it in perspective of your mom, your kids; it’s a different two years. Those two years are worth fighting for.”