Our Story – The Courage to Dance, Smile, and Live

Team Draft is an initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation created by former NFL linebacker Chris Draft and his late wife Keasha during Keasha’s year-long struggle with Stage IV Lung Cancer. Their hope was that Keasha’s valiant fight to dance, smile, and live would give hope, comfort, and inspiration to the patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers who are battling the disease every day.

As a former Charlotte Hornets Honeybee dancer and member of Clemson University’s Rally Cat dance squad, Keasha was an energetic vibrant young woman who had never smoked when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer in December 2010. At the time, her only “symptom” was a slight shortness of breath a few days earlier. Despite the diagnosis and knowing the long odds they faced, Keasha and Chris decided to fight back. On November 27, 2011, standing side-by-side, they launched Team Draft at their wedding. One month later, Keasha lost her courageous fight and died at the age of 38.

Team Draft is dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and increasing badly needed research funding by shattering the misconception that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease.” The fact is anybody can get lung cancer. Yet, despite the fact that between 20,000 and 30,000 people who have never smoked—including Keasha—are diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States each year, the smoking stigma negatively impacts lung cancer research funding, which pales in comparison to funding for other major cancers and diseases. Team Draft is out to change all that.

Honoring the Commitment – The National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer

When Chris and Keasha launched Team Draft, they made a commitment to tackle cancer. Team Draft is honoring that commitment by using the unique platform available to Chris as a former NFL player and nationally recognized community leader and health advocate to lead a national campaign to change the face of lung cancer.

Team Draft launched the campaign in February 2012 during Super Bowl Week in Indianapolis—a week capped off by a special Super Bowl edition of Sunday NFL Countdown, during which ESPN premiered a touching profile of Chris and Keasha, and their commitment to dance, smile, and live as they fought lung cancer together. During Team Draft’s first year:

  • We established a scholarship fund in Keasha’s honor at her alma mater, Clemson University;
  • We established a memorial fund in Keasha’s name supporting lung cancer research;
  • We issued an unprecedented challenge to all current and former NFL players and fans to support the campaign by using social media to help raise lung cancer awareness;
  • We worked with NBA and NCAA dance teams to raise awareness through dance tributes;
  • We have collected and shared the stories of lung cancer survivors, caregivers, and healthcare providers from across North America;
  • We have given radio and TV interviews in major media markets across the country; and
  • We have visited more than 50 of the top cancer research and treatment facilities in North America.

While we are proud of our successes, we know there is still a lot more to be done.

Sharing Hope – Why We Campaign

For decades, the facts about lung cancer have been sobering:

  • Anyone can get lung cancer.
  • Over 60% of lung cancers are diagnosed in people who never smoked or in former smokers.1
  • Lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the number #1 cancer killer for women in 1987.2
  • Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer3, and takes more lives than breast, cervical, and prostate cancer . . . combined.4
  • The five year survival rate for lung cancer is just 17.8%—a rate that has changed very little since the 1970’s.5

But, now there is HOPE! Our national campaign to change the face of lung cancer gives us a front line view of the state of lung cancer in North America. As we have learned, this is an exciting period in the history of the care and treatment of the disease:

  • The use of state-of-the-art lung cancer screening techniques is reducing mortality rates by 20% in some patient groups.
  • Cutting-edge team-based, multidisciplinary treatment procedures are improving the quality of life for lung cancer patients across the country.
  • Thanks to advances in molecular tumor mutation testing, researchers and treating physicians are developing effective personalized lung cancer treatments designed to extend and, ultimately, save lives.

While these revolutionary procedures are starting to yield results , the key to making even greater strides is funding. Funding for lung cancer research is, however, impacted by the “smoker’s disease” stigma , and that is why Team Draft is campaigning to change the face of the disease. But it takes a team to tackle cancer, and we need your help!

To learn more about Team Draft, join the Team, and respond and donate, visit www.teamdraft.org. You can follow the national campaign to change the face of lung cancer on our blog at www.thedraftreport.net, and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamDraft.

1. Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Women’s Health Policy & Advocacy Program, Out of the Shadows: Women and Lung Cancer (2010), at 4.
2. American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2011, at 15.
3. Id.
4. Out of the Shadows, at 4.
5. Cancer Facts & Figures, at 16; Out of the Shadows, at 9; American Cancer Society, Cancer Statistics 2009: A Presentation From the American Cancer Society, at 22.