Salem, Oregon. Four years ago, Kris Patrick-Wolf was a 43-year-old mother of two young boys living in Woodburn. She was working as a Psychiatric Consultation Liason at Salem Hospital, a job she had held for 13 years.
On Nov. 20, 2013, she was told that she had an incurable form of Stage IV lung cancer, and that she had just three to eight months to live.
Monday morning, in the lobby of Salem Cancer Institute, former NFL player Chris Draft presented a check for $2,492 to the Salem Health Foundation based on the fundraising efforts of the now 47-year-old Patrick-Wolf for the Chris Draft Foundation.
Though Patrick-Wolf, a non-smoker, has plenty of other things with which she could spend her time, she chose to raise money to help others and help raise awareness that lung cancer can impact anyone.
“I think it’s just the goodness of her heart, wanting to not only do the best for herself, but also the best for her family, the best for her friends and the best for the community,” said Charles Petrunin, Patrick-Wolf’s oncologist at the Salem Cancer Center. “It’s just a driving force for her.”
The money Draft presented to the Salem Hospital Foundation will go to the patient assist program for things such as transportation, medicine and food for patients who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
Draft was impacted directly by lung cancer when his wife, Kaesha – also a non-smoker – died of lung cancer in 2011 at 38 years old.
Through his foundation, Draft – who played linebacker at Stanford and 13 seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins – is raising awareness of the disease and showing that it can occur in anybody.
“This is her community,” Draft said. “A survivor is a person who is unique and has connections to their community. Somebody asked me, ‘What does lung cancer awareness look like?’ Well, it actually looks different in every community.
“For my wife as a dancer, it could look like a dancing event, but she also did pharmaceutical sales, so it could look like a dinner with doctors, and those could look authentic. Kris has worked here in the hospital.”
Working in the health care field – Patrick-Wolf retired after the diagnosis – she educated herself and found groups and foundations that could help her in the fight.
Even though Patrick-Wolf was a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan, she didn’t know who Draft was until her diagnosis, and she met him at a conference.
“I also knew about him for years,” Patrick-Wolf said. “Three years ago he started this push to raise money, so whoever raised the most money could go to the Super Bowl and then the Pro Bowl or the Taste of the NFL.
“I actually have friends who won these things,” she said. “I did not this year, but boy, people are raising money. It’s great. The amount of money they raised this year, I was so impressed.”
Three years ago, Draft’s foundation started a contest for lung cancer survivors in which the survivor who raises the most money was given a trip to the Super Bowl.
Patrick-Wolf, a native of Wisconsin, took up the cause this year and raised $3,115 from family and friends contacted on social media in her campaign titled, “Green Bay Fans Against Lung Cancer.”
“This year we had about 20 people. Ideally it’s more,” Draft said. “That’s what we’ve done as a part of our survivor series is showing survivors all over the country and helping them see that the lung cancer stigma is only because of the prevention campaign.
“The game plan for cancer is prevention, but it’s also early detection, treatment, research and survivorship, and across the board it’s the same. In this case, people can understand the importance of those other aspects of lung cancer, and the only way to get that is to see people, connect to people and have compassion for them.”
Draft’s foundation has sent survivors to NFL games, college football games, NBA games and NHL games, but more than that, it is changing the perception of the disease through its work with survivors and initiative of education.
He does that, in part, by travelling around the country from his home in Atlanta, Georgia to places like Salem Hospital to do presentations like the one he did Monday for Patrick-Wolf.
Throughout the past four years, Patrick-Wolf has been on multiple regimens of drugs and chemotherapy, and it’s extended her life.
With two young sons, she has fought valiantly and wants to keep fighting. But she also shows a face of lung cancer which most people don’t see.
“It is statistically unlikely that I will survive five years post-diagnosis,” Patrick-Wolf said. “Maybe, maybe I’ll be the outlier. I want to live 15 years at a minimum to get them through high school. Right now that’s a real dream, and not a reality. I’m just going to do whatever I can.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler