Posts Tagged ‘Changing the Face of Lung Cancer’

Surfing And Cycling With Stage 4 Lung Cancer

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Physicians at the University of Colorado Hospital are finding startling success with medications that are made to match the genes of a particular lung cancer. The new strategy means the drugs work only on certain patients – but they can work really well.
Researchers think the cancer-fighting drugs may tamp the disease for a few years, and then the cancers may mutate and find a way around the medication. But years of healthy living is fantastic for people who’ve been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of less than 3 percent.
Dr. Ross Camidge of UCH says patient Andy Bonnett is a prime example of what one of this new strategy of “personalized medicine” can do.
Two years ago Bonnett was one of those Stage 4 lung cancer patients. He was, said Camidge, “a young man who had never smoked, led a very healthy life, developed increasing shortness of breath and pain, and was diagnosed with lung cancer in his mid-30s.”

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Matt Hiznay is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

My name is Matt Hiznay, and I am 25 years old. I am a lung cancer survivor. I am the first child of Jim and Mandie Hiznay. I have a younger sister, Katie, and a younger brother, Patrick. I grew up in Poland, Ohio, and graduated from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. It was there I met my girlfriend, Ally Stojkoska. We met in freshmen biology class and began dating going into our junior years. After college, I enrolled in medical school at the University of Toledo, while Ally was off to pharmacy school at Ohio State University. These people have been with me on my entire journey with lung cancer. I would not be here today without them.
I was employed in a lab in the summer of 2011. Towards the end of July 2011, I developed a persistent, dry cough. Because I was going home about 10 days later, and I knowing that I had a past history with summertime allergies, I simply swallowed some cough drops and planned to bring it up at my yearly physical at the beginning of August. My cough worsened in August, and eventually a lymph node swelled up on the left side of my neck. It was removed and biopsied. My life forever changed on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. I was told on that day that I had cancer.
I travelled to the Cleveland Clinic on August 26 to see Dr. Nathan Pennell, a thoracic oncologist. I learned my grave diagnosis: stage IV adenocarcinoma of the lung. It was decided that I would begin intravenous chemotherapy six days later. My cancer was ravaging my body. It had spread into both lungs, into all the lymph nodes in my chest, and into my breastbone. Because of my cancer’s advanced state, it caused quite a list of complications in my body. Dr. Pennell decided that I was too weak to begin chemotherapy on September 1 and admitted me to the hospital. I remained in the Cleveland Clinic for three weeks, battling for my life.
The cancer created a massive fluid buildup around my lungs and my heart. In the early morning of September 2, I fell into respiratory failure, or “coded.” Simply put, my body was losing to the cancer, and fast; I was dying. I was transferred to the intensive care unit, where quick action by the doctors there drained the fluid from around my heart and I stabilized. I was placed on a ventilator because I could not breathe on my own. Tubes were placed in my chest and around my heart to drain the built up fluid. I developed blood clots in both of my lungs. I lost 30 pounds in three weeks. Dr. Pennell later told me that I experienced all the complications a lung cancer patient experiences – but whereas they usually occur over several years, mine all occurred in a matter of five days.
My luck forever changed on September 9. Back on August 26, the day I was diagnosed with lung cancer, Dr. Pennell recommended running a test for a specific genetic mutation that was currently under extensive study. This mutation caused a gene called anaplastic lymphoma kinase, or ALK for short, to become “turned on with no off switch.” This continual state of activity causes tumors to form, survive, and spread in lung cancer patients. Dr. Pennell sent a frozen section of my previously removed lymph node to see if I had this specific genetic mutation. This test is done out west and takes 14 days for a result. After two long weeks, and my near-death, the results showed I was a match for the mutation.
The ALK mutation is so significant because on the day I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new form of chemotherapy for ALK-positive lung cancer patients. As a matter of fact, the drug I am on won early approval by the FDA and was released six weeks earlier than the scheduled date. I thank God every day for that, because I doubt I would have survived another six weeks without it. This miracle drug, called crizotinib, blocks the mutated ALK gene in my cancer cells. Crizotinib is not your typical chemotherapy. Whereas traditional, intravenous chemotherapy attacks all fast-dividing cells, whether the cells are cancerous or not, crizotinib attacks only the cancerous cells in my body. Crizotinib saved my life.
I began crizotinib on September 10, after the drug was overnighted to Cleveland thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Taussig Cancer Institute and my mother. After I began crizotinib, the fluid around my lungs and heart began to disappear. I slowly regained my strength. My draining tubes were removed and I eventually began to walk again. Finally, I was discharged from the Cleveland Clinic on September 21 and returned home for the first time in three weeks. Dr. Rendell Ashton, the intensivist who directed my care in the ICU, later told me that I was the sickest patient he had ever seen make it out of the ICU alive. On Thursday, November 10, 2011, two months to the day since I began crizotinib, Dr. Pennell informed me that my lung cancer had had a complete response to my treatment. A complete response means that no tumors can be seen on a CT scan and that my cancer was in remission. I went from stage IV lung cancer to cancer-free in two months.
I noticed a swelling on the left side of my neck near the middle of May 2012. A needlepoint biopsy on May 11, 2012 revealed my cancer had had a recurrence. I was referred to Dr. Ross Camidge at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. Dr. Camidge is widely regarded as one of the top experts on ALK-positive non-small lung cancer in the United States. He enrolled me in a clinical trial of a drug that acts as the “second generation” of crizotinib. It is believed that some of my cancer cells have become resistant to crizotinib. It is hoped that this new drug will block the resistant cells’ ALK gene in the same previous manner. I will know for certain sometime after my PET scan on July 5, 2012. Until then, I thank everyone for their constant prayers and support.

The Changing Face of Lung Cancer

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

When Carol Sill learned she had lung cancer in November 2004, she and her husband, Dennis, searched the Web for a support group near their Sacramento home. They called the American Cancer Society. They checked with the American Lung Association. Nothing.

“If I had breast cancer, I’d be able to choose from literally dozens of support groups and help lines right in our area. But there was nothing for lung cancer,” Sill said.

Now there is. Determined to reverse the stigma she believes has kept lung cancer patients from stepping forward and seeking the help they need, Sill went to work. She founded a support group that meets twice a month at UC Davis Cancer Center under the leadership of Cancer Center social worker Carolyn Guadagnolo. Sill also forged ties with the Gail P. Ramos Lung Cancer Foundation in Fairfield, to help that group expand its fundraising efforts for lung cancer research in Sacramento. She also told her story to the Sacramento Bee and the regional ABC and NBC affiliates.
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States, but it lags far behind breast and prostate cancer in terms of public attention. At one recent meeting of the support group Sill established, a woman talked about ribbons. Breast cancer has a pink ribbon; prostate cancer’s is blue. The lung cancer ribbon is clear, she had discovered. “Invisible. Like us,” she told the group.
“Invisible like us”
That’s changing. ABC anchorman Peter Jennings’ death from lung cancer last year put the disease in the headlines. Shortly after his death, Dana Reeve, widow of actor Christopher Reeve, confirmed her lung cancer diagnosis, helping to raise awareness that lung cancer is increasingly a disease of younger women who have never smoked. She died of the disease March 6.
“Twenty years ago, the typical lung cancer patient was an older man who had a smoking history,” said David R. Gandara , director of the Thoracic Oncology Program at UC Davis Cancer Center. “But lung cancer rates for men are down, while they are climbing in women. And in my clinic, more than one-third of our lung cancer patients are never-smokers — individuals who have smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.”
Improving Treatment
Treatments are also changing. Last year, a Southwest Oncology Group study led by Gandara demonstrated the best long-term survival rates yet reported in patients with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Another study, co-authored by Gandara, showed that administering chemotherapy after surgery can boost five-year survival for patients with early stage, completely resected non-small cell lung cancer tumors to more than 60 percent. Both studies made national headlines.
Newer drugs are targeting tumors in more specific ways. Half a dozen of these molecularly targeted agents are being evaluated at UC Davis Cancer Center right now. UC Davis researchers are also looking for clues that will let doctors better determine which patients will respond to which targeted agents, and are studying new methods of preventing lung cancer recurrence.
In its first three months, Sacramento’s first lung cancer support group grew to 60 members. Meetings are held on Wednesdays to coincide with the Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary lung clinic and Thoracic Tumor Board. Patients from as far away as Palo Alto, Tahoe and Turlock attend, often because no lung cancer support group is available closer to home.
Courtesy of UC Davis Health Center

David M. Jablons, M.D., University California San Francisco

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

David M. Jablons M.D., FACS is the Ada Distinguished Professor in Thoracic Oncology, Chief of General Thoracic Surgery, and Program Leader of Thoracic Oncology at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer. He also is Director of the UCSF Thoracic Oncology Lab.
Dr. Jablons received his medical degree from Albany Medical College of Union University New York. In his fourth year of medical school, he won a prestigious preceptorship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for clinical science training under Dr. Steven Rosenberg, a world-renowned surgical oncologist and tumor immunologist. This experience kindled his lifelong interest in translational science.
Dr. Jablons began his surgical residency at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston. He then completed his surgical oncology fellowship at NCI, focusing on tumor immunology and immunotherapy. Dr. Jablons received his advanced cardiothoracic training as a fellow under Dr. Wayne Isom at Cornell Medical Center (now New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center), and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical Center under Dr. Robert Ginsburg. Dr. Jablons also trained with Dr. David Sugarbaker in lung transplantation at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.
In 1994, while on active duty in the U.S. Navy, Dr. Jablons served as a commander and Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the Naval Hospital at Oakland at Oak Knoll. In 1995, he was recruited by the UCSF Department of Surgery to build a world-class program in thoracic surgery and oncology. In 1997, Dr. Jablons was named Chief of General Thoracic Surgery.
Dr. Jablons co-founded the UCSF Thoracic Oncology Conference, the oldest such program of its kind and was co-Chair of the 13th World Conference on Lung Cancer in 2009. He is a member of numerous professional organizations including the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Association for Cancer Research and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). Highly respected by his peers, Dr. Jablons was named to the list of U.S. News “America’s Top Doctors,” a distinction reserved for the top 1% of physicians in the nation for a given specialty.
Dr. Jablons was recently inducted into the American Surgical Society, the nation’s oldest most prestigious surgical organization with membership comprised of world-renowned surgeons from leading academic medical institutions including many Department of Surgery Chairs.
Research Summary
Soon after his arrival, Dr. Jablons recruited basic scientists Biao He, Ph.D., Zhidong Xu, Ph.D., and Liang You, Ph.D. to form the nucleus of the Thoracic Oncology Laboratory. Key areas of research include isolation of lung cancer stems cells, the Wnt pathway in lung cancer and mesothelioma, inflammation in carcinogenesis, and the underlying molecular biology of thoracic malignancies.
The lab recently added four new principal investigators Il-Jin Kim, Ph.D., Hassan Lemjabbar-Alaoui. Ph.D., Carlo C. Maley, Ph.D., and Minh To, Ph.D. creating a formidable research enterprise focused on drug target discovery, commercialization of novel therapeutics and development of genomic assays based on predictive and prognostic biomarkers.

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

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

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.


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.


Tackling Lung Cancer: Team Draft Visits Chicago

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

“Lung cancer came into my house, and it took my wife. Too many families are affected by this horrible disease.  It’s time to respond,” said CDFF founder, Chris Draft, of his Team Draft initiative.  “That’s why Keasha and I launched Team Draft.  She wanted to be an inspiration to those battling the disease and we wanted to raise awareness so that other families wouldn’t have to go through what we went through. Team Draft is committed to changing the face of lung cancer, but it takes a team to tackle cancer.”

Team Draft is back on the move, and visiting Chicago as part of a Midwest leg  of a nationwide public awareness campaign to change the face of lung cancer.  The visit to Chicago will include stops at three of the nations’s top cancer research and treatment facilities, Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, and also the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Team Draft will share amazing stories from Chicagoans who are Changing the Face of Lung Cancer, and video of phenomenal doctors and researchers at these facilities who are Tackling Lung Cancer, one breath at a time. Respond and Donate