Team Draft Co- Founder Helping Lung Cancer Patients

MAPLE SHADE, NJ — It was a class act at A Touch of Class.

Almost 100 people partied at the catering hall to the tunes of the jazz band Adelante at the second annual Lungevity Foundation fundraiser to support victims of lung cancer and promote research.

Pro football player Chris Draft, whose wife, Keasha Rutledge Draft, died of the disease despite being a nonsmoker, stopped by for the event, organized by Heather Geraghty of Maple Shade at the North Fork Landing Road business.
Geraghty, 26, was diagnosed at age 24 and underwent surgery to have a large portion of her right lung removed. Since then, she has worked to promote and raise funds for Lungevity.

“She’s an inspiration,” said Kelly Freels of Maple Shade, who attended the party with her husband, Paul, a six-year survivor.
Freels said he was lucky that his cancer was discovered early while he was being treated for pneumonia.

Draft, an NFL free agent who visited several Philadelphia area hospitals and Montgomery County Community College to promote lung-cancer awareness through his Chris Draft Family Foundation, heard about the Lungevity event through Brad Saler of Mount Laurel, whose wife, Heather, also died from the disease despite being a nonsmoker.
Saler is organizing the ninth annual Heather Saler Lung Cancer Walk for Nov. 3 at Cooper River Park in Pennsauken.
Friday’s event netted almost $3,000 through the sale of tickets and proceeds of a Chinese auction of 50 donated items, Geraghty said Monday.
Lung cancer kills more adults than any other cancer, said Dr. Angel Rodis, a Virtua pulmonologist with the Garden State Pulmonary Associates, who spoke at the event.

“All the other types of cancer get all the attention,” Rodis said. “It’s still the most fatal of all the cancers in men and women.”
He noted that there is still no “screening for lung cancer. That’s the reason we don’t catch them early.”
Rodis also is concerned that smoking seems to be “back in vogue,” especially among the young.

“I’m not sure why,” he said.

Other speakers included Harriet Quinn of Maple Shade and Garry Sytsma of Tuckerton, Ocean County, both of whom have been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Quinn praised Geraghty for her efforts on behalf of Lungevity, while Sytsma urged smokers — who Rodis said make up 90 percent of lung-cancer patients — to try to stop.

He said Nicotine Anonymous is a program that helps. Chapters are located throughout the area.

Sytsma, 46, said he hopes new diagnosis tools will be developed to detect lung cancer earlier when it is more easily treated, rather than when people are at the most serious stage 4. A diagnosis at that time is “devastating,” he said.
Since he had a collapsed lung earlier, he didn’t realize the pain he was feeling in his chest was from lung cancer. He didn’t have a bad cough or other symptoms.
“It’s a horrible, very tough diagnosis,” Sytsma said. “Instant bad news for me.”
“I think there should be more awareness to detect and cure lung cancer,” he added.

His sister, Laura Sytsma, said breast cancer gets so much publicity — and rightfully so — “but this kills more people. Because you’re a smoker … (it’s) like you deserve to be sick. Superman’s wife (the late Christopher Reeve’s spouse, Dana) died of lung cancer, and she never smoked a day in her life.”

“There needs to be a lot more done for lung-cancer awareness,” said Lisa Eivell of Maple Shade, who was diagnosed four years ago and is doing well.

“I am a voice of hope,” Eivell said.

The next Lungevity project Geraghty is helping to organize is the Breathe Deep Philadelphia 3K Walk on Sept. 23 at the Piazza at Schmidt’s at Germantown Avenue and North Second Street.

Lung Cancer survivors like Heather Geraghty bring hope to lung cancer. Team Draft needs your stories like Heather’s! Share your story and Donate Today!

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