Archive for May, 2012

Team Draft: Notes From the National Campaign Trail

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Sunday, May 13th would have been Keasha’s 39th birthday.  Team Draft marked the occasion by kicking off a week-long bicoastal tour in support of our national campaign to change the face of lung cancer.  The tour took Team Draft to our 30th cancer treatment facility, to the set of Dancing With The Stars, and to Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers.  And none of this would have been possible without the generation support and donations of people like you.  Please help us continue the campaign by making a donation today:

 Finding HOPE on the West Coast

 Team Draft began the tour in Southern California.  On Monday, we had the opportunity to sit down with the newly-appointed Director of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego, Dr. Scott Lippman.  And on Wednesday, Team Draft achieved a major milestone when we visited our 30th cancer treatment facility since launching the national campaign: USC’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Thanks to cutting-edge research like that being performed at these state-of-the-art facilities, for the first time in decades, there is hope in the fight against lung cancer.

Applying revolutionary genomic approaches, researchers have now identified the molecular changes in certain genes that cause some lung cancer tumors to grow.  This discovery opens the door for the development of targeted drugs designed to stop tumor growth in its tracks by interfering with the growth receptors in these mutated genes.  These new targeted drug therapies are extending the lives of some patients by several months, and in some cases, even years.

The key to making even greater strides (and ultimately saving lives) is funding, but funding for lung cancer research is impacted by the stigma that it is a “smoker’s disease.”  The truth is, anybody can get lung cancer—a fact underscored on Thursday by the tragic death from lung cancer of disco legend Donna Summers, who was a non-smoker like Keasha.  That’s why Team Draft is campaigning to change the face of lung cancer and to raise public awareness.  Thankfully, we are not alone.

Before leaving the West Coast, Team Draft visited the set of Dancing With The Stars to show our support for the show’s lung cancer awareness efforts.  This season, DWTS Pros Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya performed a tribute dance in honor their friend and fellow ballroom dancer, Julia Ivleva, who is in the middle of her own battle with Stage IV Lung Cancer.  Jonathan, Anna, and Julia embody the dance, smile, and live philosophy, and Team Draft thanks DWTS for helping to shine a light on lung cancer.

Raising AWARENESS on the East Coast

 After completing the West Coast leg of the tour, Team Draft headed to back to the East Coast.  We concluded the tour on Saturday by taking part in two events to raise awareness and funding for cancer research in Keasha’s adopted hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Team Draft began the day at Charlotte’s Park Road Park where Chris addressed a crowd of lung cancer survivors, advocates, and supporters at The North Carolina Lung Cancer Partnership’s inaugural Free to Breathe 5K and Rally. The event raised money for lung cancer research and advocacy.

After the Rally, Team Draft headed to Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers.  As a Panther’s linebacker, Chris used to come to the Stadium to tackle opposing quarterbacks.  On Saturday, Team Draft was there to tackle cancer by participating in the Keep Pounding 5K Stadium Run in support of the Panther’s Keep Pounding Fund and pediatric cancer research at Levine Children’s Hospital.

Team Draft’s national campaign to change the face of lung cancer would not be possible without support from people like you.  Your donation will help ensure that we can continue to raise public awareness of the true nature of the disease and increase the funding needed to tackle it.

To learn more about Team Draft, share your story, and respond and donate, visit  You can follow the national campaign to change the face of lung cancer on our blog at, and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook at , and also

Team Draft: Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

When Chris Draft established the Chris Draft Family Foundationin 2006, inspired by some close friends who had cancer, he never imagined that the disease would claim his wife, Keasha, five years later at age 38—less than a month after their wedding. And especially not Stage IV Lung Cancer.

“Most people associate lung cancer with smoking, but Keasha was never a smoker. In fact, we always stayed as far away as possible from any type of smoke because of my asthma,” says Chris, a former NFL linebacker and Stanford University graduate. “Through the Foundation, and the Team Draft initiative, I want to change the face of lung cancer. I want to take away the stigma and show people the advancements that have been made in curing lung cancer – and give people hope.”

Launched by Chris and Keasha on their wedding day in 2011, the Team Draft initiative is dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and increasing desperately needed research funding for the disease. Because of its stigma as the ‘smoker’s disease’, funding for lung cancer research pales in comparison to that for other major cancers.

According to the most recent statistics, nearly 50 to 60 percent of lung cancers occur in people who have never smoked or are former smokers. Two-thirds of the non-smokers diagnosed with lung cancer are women, and lung cancer has been the number-one cancer killer of women since 1987!

“If we can take away the stigma that says you have to be a smoker to get lung cancer, we have a real chance to educate people about the true nature of the disease,” Chris says. “The reality was that Keasha was in shape, she was strong, she went to the doctor right away. A lot of people diagnosed with lung cancer are just like Keasha,” a fact underscored by last week’s death from lung cancer of disco legend Donna Summer, who was also a non-smoker.

In the five months since Keasha’s death, Team Draft has been leading a national campaign to change the face of lung cancer, which is focused on educating people not only about the disease itself, but also about the hope that exists for individuals diagnosed with lung cancer today, which is much greater than ever before. The current five-year survival rate for lung cancer is about 16 percent, a number that has changed very little since the 1970s, but there is hope.

Team Draft’s national campaign has taken it to nearly 30 of the country’s top cancer research and treatment facilities in more than a dozen states to give inspiration to those living with the disease and encourage leading researchers to continue to share information with each other that can extend the current life expectancy of lung cancer patients. Chris explains, “Our national campaign to change the face of lung cancer gives us a front-line view of the state of lung cancer research and treatment in America, and this is an exciting period in the history of lung cancer treatment.”

In fact, the use of state-of-the-art lung cancer screening techniques is reducing mortality rates by 20 percent in some patient groups while cutting-edge team-based, multidisciplinary treatment procedures are improving the quality of life for lung cancer patients across the country. And thanks to advances in molecular tumor mutation testing, researchers and treating physicians are developing effective personal lung cancer treatments designed to extend and, ultimately, save lives.

“Our hope is not only to positively impact research funding, but also to improve the quality of life for those affected by lung cancer,” says Chris. “We aren’t fighting against lung cancer, we’re fighting for people. That’s why we are changing the face of lung cancer.”

To learn more about the Chris and Keasha, the Chris Draft Family Foundation, including its Team Draft initiative, and the national campaign to change the face of lung cancer, and to respond and donate, please visit and

Local event helps raise awareness for lung cancer research

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Runners and walkers were out at Park Road Park to help raise money for lung cancer research during the Free to Breathe event Saturday morning.

Former Carolina Panthers linebacker Chris Draft lost his wife to lung cancer last December and Saturday he was one of many to take part in the event.

“My wife passed away this past December after battling and tackling lung cancer for a year. This disease is terrible, she did not smoke, she was in great shape but lung cancer is a beast,” Draft said. “I had chance to speak to everyone before the race and thank them for being here.”

The event provides an opportunity for lung cancer advocates, survivors and the community to come together to raise awareness and support in the movement to defeat lung cancer.

All proceeds will benefit the North Carolina Lung Cancer Partnership’s research, education and awareness programs.

Disco legend Donna Summer has passed away at age 63, from a battle with Lung Cancer.

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Summer’s was private about her illness, and that there may have been a connection between debris from 9/11 and her lung cancer. However, there are very few details about Summer’s cancer, or if there were any complications that were involved with her death.
The family of the “She Works Hard for the Money” singer issued a statement, AFP reported, which said: “While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic. The National Cancer Institute reports that there have been 226,160 new cases of lung cancer so far this year, and 160,340 deaths from the disease.
The cancer occurs when tumors form in lung tissue, most commonly in the cells that line the air passages, according to the National Cancer Institute. There are two main types: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer tends to be more aggressive than non-small cell lung cancer, according to Cedars Sinai.
Risk for the disease is highest among smokers, according to the Mayo Clinic, though lung cancer can also occur in never-smokers, too.
In fact, there is some research to suggest that lung cancer in smokers may actually be a separate disease from lung cancer in never-smokers; a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research conference last year suggested that there are DNA differences in the tumors from lung cancer in smokers and lung cancer in nonsmokers, Live Science reported.
Researchers said at the World Conference on Lung Cancer that it can also be caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas and other carcinogens, as well as air pollution, the American Cancer Society reported. Family history may also play a role.
Older people are more likely to develop lung cancer than young people, with 80 percent of lung cancers occurring in those ages 60 and older, according to MacMillan Cancer Support.
That’s supported by a chart on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website that reveals an increase in lung cancer prevalence as we age. The chart on its site calculates lung cancer risk based on current age. For example, 2.29 percent of men — around two or three for every 100 men — who are currently age 60 will go on to develop lung cancer in the next 10 years. However, that increases to 7.6 percent of men — around seven or eight for every 100 men — when looking ahead to the next 30 years.
Recently, “Big Love” actor Luke Askew and former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno also died of lung cancer.
Via The

Ite A. Laird-Offringa, PhD., USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The Laird-Offringa laboratory is focused on identifying changes in the genetic material (DNA) of lung cancer cells, to help us understand how lung cancer develops, and to use as markers for early detection. The kind of molecular change we study is called DNA methylation. DNA methylation is a chemical modification of DNA that doesn’t change the genetic sequence, but does change the way the DNA looks to a cell. Excessive methylation leads to the silencing or inactivation of genes. In cancer cells, DNA methylation is now recognized as a key molecular mechanism for the inactivation of so-called “tumor suppressor genes”. If one thinks of the genetic material as a very thick textbook, with instructions for the cell, DNA methylation can be thought of as post-it notes stuck to the beginning of certain chapters, instructing these chapters to be skipped. The pattern of methylation, or the “methylation profile”, is not the same for all types of cancer. Thus, abnormal methylation changes could provide important insights into the changes that lead to a particular kind of cancer. In addition, they could yield powerful biomarkers that may help the detection of different kinds of cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and Western Europe. Adenocarcinoma, the histological subtype most frequently seen in never smokers and former smokers, is now the most common type of lung cancer in men and women in the United States. The increasing incidence of lung adenocarcinoma and its lethal nature underline the importance of understanding the development and progression of this disease, and the need for the development of accurate tools for early diagnosis. Atypical adenomatous hyperplasia (AAH) and bronchioalveolar carcinoma (BAC), defined as non-invasive lesions, are thought to be sequential precursors along the path of progression to lung adenocarcinoma. Elucidation of the molecular changes underlying the development and progression of lung adenocarcinoma is of great importance for devising targeted drugs and methods of early detection. Respond and Donate

Julia Ivleva and Dancing with the Stars are Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

The first AT&T Spotlight Performance of the season on Tuesday night during the elimination round of Dancing With the Stars was extraordinarily moving. Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya were on the dance floor moving ever so gracefully in a tribute to a friend who is fighting a battle for her life.

Julia Ivleva is a world-class professional ballroom dancer who has recently been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Ivleva is known around the world for her moves and her health condition has touched a number of people who care about her. On the elimination show, the emotional dance of two of her friends seemed like such a perfect connection.

Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya took the Dancing With the Stars audience for the performance that seemed almost effortless. Sharing the journey of Ivleva in their inspirational dance, the two were highlighted during the elimination show and the performance was embraced by the fans. With strength and passion, it wasn’t just a simple dance but more like an endless passage of love.

Via :

Scott M. Lippman, MD, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Scott M. Lippman, MD, chair of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology at The University of Texas (UT) MD Anderson Cancer Center, has accepted the position of director of Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, beginning May 1, 2012.
UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, home to nearly 350 medical and radiation oncologists, cancer surgeons, and researchers, is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country. It is part of UC San Diego Health System, the San Diego region’s only academic health system.
“As the new director, Lippman will implement strong initiatives for ramping up the research-driven cancer therapy and prevention programs and clinical trials of the Moores Cancer Center,” said David A. Brenner, MD, vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine at UC San Diego. “His ultimate goal, and ours, is to facilitate the translation of novel discoveries from our world-class laboratories into personalized therapies. I am confident that under Dr. Lippman’s leadership, research at Moores Cancer Center will benefit our patients and change standards of care for decades to come.” Respond and Donate

Changing the Face of Lung Cancer: Keasha Rutledge Draft

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Keasha Rutledge Draft

May 13, 1973 – December 27, 2011

Lakeasha Monique Rutledge Draft passed away on Tuesday, December 27.  She courageously faced lung cancer, showing us all with every breath that we all need to hold onto life and love with both hands for as long as we can.  Not just an inspiration, but a light, and a force that led the way with a beautiful, sweet smile and bright shining eyes that both belied the pure steel of her strength and determination.

Strong is too pale, too shallow and too small of a word to describe Keasha’s vibrancy… Quite simply, she was ferocious. She fiercely held onto life, and love with a forcefulness that was absolutely awe-inspiring and completely breathtaking. Rest in peace, Mrs. Draft.

A Celebration of Keasha Rutledge Draft’s life will be held on Saturday, December 31st, 1pm at Calvary Baptist Church in Williamston, South Carolina.  She will be laid to rest following the Celebration at New Prospect Baptist Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for support of Team Draft, the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s tribute to Keasha.  Team Draft was created by Chris and Keasha during her year-long struggle with lung cancer in hopes that her valiant fight to live, love, laugh and smile will give hope and comfort to people across the world.  Chris and Keasha, the Draft and Rutledge families, friends and loved ones ask for your support, and love, and thank you for joining Team Draft… because it takes a Team to tackle cancer!

Donations to Team Draft can be made via the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s website or via mail to the Foundation’s Atlanta office.


Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


William Mayfield, MD, WellStar Cancer Center in Marietta, GA

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Dr. Mayfield earned his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He completed his internship and residency at the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, and his fellowship at the University of Florida College of Medicine Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

He serves as WellStar’s chief surgical officer, leading the surgeons and clinical teams that make up WellStar’s Surgery Network. His research and development efforts have focused on thoracoscopy instruments and innovative cardiac and thoracic surgical procedures, such as Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS).

Dr. Mayfield has been a driving force for WellStar’s cancer program, as well as participation in the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP), a lung cancer screening collaborative program. He is active in the development of novel instrumentation for surgery and teaches board certified thoracic surgeons about VATS procedures.

Dr. Mayfield is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and Society of Thoracic Surgeons and is board certified in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery. Respond and Donate

Taylor Bell is Changing The Face of Lung Cancer as a Survivor

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Growing up it was my dream to play soccer in college. I got that chance when Coach Rob Donnenwirth asked if I would like to come to ECU to play soccer.  When I got to ECU, I bonded with my teammates, loved my classes, and met some really awesome friends. The only problem was that I wasn’t performing at the level that I needed to on the field. I failed fitness test after fitness test and I was constantly physically exhausted. I had numbness and tingling in my toes and was having some trouble breathing when I exerted myself at a high level.  Other than those little symptoms, I felt great!

After several failed attempts to pass fitness test and always being tired we came to the decision that it might be a good time to run some medical test to see if we would figure out what was wrong. They found nothing. I convinced myself to think that I was just burnt out from the game.   After a year of frustration and complications I made the hardest decision of my life to stop playing soccer. I still had the same symptoms from before when I was exercising but not at the level it had been.

Two years later, in October of 2007, I presented to the emergency room with complaints of a lower abdomen pain where I thought my appendix was rupturing or having cramps but my sister insisted that female cramps were not that bad. They took me in and did a CT scan of my abdomen and my lungs showed up on the scan.
They told me that my ovaries did have some small cyst on them but that they thought that they were fine, but wanted to inform me that I had about a 3cm mass on my left lung. My heart sank!! Lung cancer runs in my family, but surely I did not have lung cancer or a tumor. I was 21 years old and a former college athlete and NEVER smoker.
After the night at the hospital I went home. The next two weeks we spent in doctors’ offices all over the state trying to see what this mass really was. No doctor thought it was possible for it to be lung cancer. After several test I finally got my answer when meeting with a surgeon. That doctor’s appointment was when I went into shock. He walked into my room and said Taylor I hear you have lung cancer. I freaked out¦ no one had said the word lung cancer yet because no one was sure.
My doctor told me that the mass was pretty large but that it was going to have to come out, but he felt comfortable that he would be able to do the small incision and get it all out. The only problem was that I was really sick.  After the first bronchoscope I developed really bad pneumonia, basically to the point that I could not walk. So we had to wait to have my surgery until I could pass a breathing test to prove that my lungs could handle the surgery.  I finally got well enough to have the surgery. On November 14, 2007, I had a VATS pneumonectomy.
After the surgery I was a mess. The chest tube was HORRIBLE!!!! I was in the ICU for 2 days and then moved to a step down unit. I had the chest tube in for about five days! They made me walk around the halls and I HATED it. It was so miserable.
I went home the day before thanksgiving, and went back to college after the New Year.  It was hard going back to school because all my friends really did not understand. It was hard for them also, because on the outside I did not look like I was sick, I looked like the normal Taylor Bell. But on the inside I was in a lot of pain.
It was also hard because it’s kind of an emotional roller coaster. I looked fine but I had just had a MAJOR surgery. I wanted to go on spring break, but I was nowhere well enough to go.  It was depressing.  I wanted to be like everyone else and have a good time, but I knew deep down my body could not handle it.
Spring break week was probably when the fact that I had lung cancer hit me. The months before it all happened so fast I did not even think about it¦ it went from diagnoses, to surgery, to recovery, to class starting. One thing after another with really no time to think about what I was going through.
I was a mess that week. I did not want my parents or my friends to see that I was upset. I think the hardest part was that I looked fine. I did not lose my hair I did not have a big scars¦ I looked normal.  I was still in a lot of pain, and I was so upset that I could not be with everyone. Cancer is kind of strange because you have a lot of thoughts that go through your head. You think a lot about it. Or what did I do to deserve this. Spring break week I thought a lot about it and that’s when I realized this happened to me because I am a strong enough person to handle it.  I made it through and I am ALIVE and that’s when I realized I HAVE to do something to speak up for everyone who has lost their life.
I now do as much public speaking and advocacy about lung cancer as I possibly can.  I am a member of Jillian’s Legacy which is an organization that was formed in honor of Jillian Costello who like me was a division 1 college athlete who was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 21. Jill fought with such grace and determination. When she passed away a group of friends decided that we needed to do something in her honor. She did not just want to beat lung cancer for herself but her goal was to beat lung cancer for everyone.

I think one of the greatest obstacles with lung cancer is getting people to break the stigma. Every time I say that I had lung cancer the first words I hear are Oh you smoked?”  Well no actually I have not, and I have never been around second hand smoke either. Then their next question is a oh it must run in your family then and then my answer is well yes it does, but there is very little funding to do research to tell if there is a genetic link.
Breaking that stigma is hard. When someone tells you the have breast cancer or they had brain cancer they donate ask any questions as to how they got it. Why do they do it with lung cancer? No one deserves this disease whether they smoked or not and everyone deserves the same compassion.
My main goal is to get the message out that this can happen to young people and people who have never smoked, it can happen to anyone. Lung Cancer does NOT discriminate. And even if they have made the choice to smoke at some point in their life they still deserve the same compassion as anyone who is fighting for their life.  And that lung cancer deserves way more funding than what it gets right now!!
When I was first diagnosed I used to think “why me” now I think “why not me?”   My diagnosis has shaped me into such a strong person and has given me the avenue to make a difference in people’s lives that have to fight this battle as well.