Awareness • Early Detection • Treatment • Research • Survivorship

A Survivor at Every College Arena: University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ. University of Arizona lung cancer survivor-advocate Ron Crescenzo represented Team Draft at the University of Arizona Men’s Basketball game against the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, March 5th. Ron was hosted at the game by, former NFL player and Chris Draft Family Foundation Board member, Kadar Hamilton.

Diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, December 4, 2008, Ron vowed to not give up, and to keep moving forward. Ron’s vow was not easy. His initial symptoms were fatigue and lower back pain, but like most men, Ron assumed it was just a work related injury/ailment, and pushed through it. After consulting with a chiropractor, physical therapist and some other medical professionals, Ron was ordered to take an MRI.

“At that point, it was clear as day, I had cancer and it had spread to my spine (lumbar 3 vertebrae) where there was a massive tumor causing a fracture”.

He immediately had an emergency reconstructive surgery to prevent paralysis. After a number of screws, rods and a medical device called a cage, Ron was told by his TMC doctor, he had between 2 months and, at best and with chemotherapy, 6 months to live given his recent diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer.

“It seemed they had already pronounced me dead and treated me add if i were a smoker, which i was not.”

Unwilling to accept this death sentence, Ron sought out a second opinion at UMC where he met Dr. Laura Garland who said with chemo therapy, he could have 3-4 years of quality life.

After 85 rounds of chemo, today marks 7 years 3 months since he was diagnosed.

Ron will turn 60 on May 15, 2016. Born in upstate New York, Ron attended Lakeland high school were he played baseball and football where he learned discipline, courage, perseverance, and teamwork. These character traits stuck with Ron throughout his life and continue to govern how he continues to live his life.

Ron has always been a fighter, having lost his mother to breast cancer in 1973. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Tucson AZ in 1974 with his father to be closer family. Ron is a father to two, and grandfather to a beautiful 2 year old girl.

Before his diagnosis, Ron was a real estate investor and also worked as a contacted engine technician. One of his career goals wad to become a full time government employee for the U.S. Border Patrol as an engine technician. He had set a goal in 2003, mapped a plan and then executed upon that plan. In 2008, the fruits of his labors had finally paid off. He attained his goal! However, shortly after, the lower back issues became more difficult to bear, leading to the diagnosis.

For the last 4 years, Ron has attended a support group through the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson AZ

This group is comprised of about 20 camber patients, 4 of which are diagnosed with lung cancer. Ron acts as an inspiration to others having more than doubled his estimated life expectancy post diagnosis. Ron’s story, his victory over cancer was not a fairy tale, he dealt with depression, self doubt, and even tested his faith. However, being a fighter all his life, he had an epiphany and said, “I don’t know how to give up, I’m going to fight this beast and I’m going to win!” He started with walking portions of a local route called Tumamouth Trail. Progressively, he increased his distance until he was able to walk the entire uphill trail in a single workout. Queue the Rocky theme!

“All joking aside, as i trudged up the Tumamouth trail, i felt like Rocky, climbing up the steps in Philadelphia. That sense of accomplishment despite all the adversity. Success in the face of certain death. Victory over cancer!”

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 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—a campaign that has taken us to more than 100 of the top cancer treatment and research centers in the United States and Canada.

Our goals are to create a unique experience for participating survivors and to raise awareness on a local and national level by using each game and each survivor’s story to weave a broader narrative about the state of lung cancer and the hope that now exists for those battling the disease.

Special thanks to the University of Arizona Cancer Center, Kadar Hamilton and our Team Draft’s supporters for helping make this experience possible.

Donate now to Support the National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer!

Ron C - University of Arizona