Chicago, IL. Local lung cancer survivor-advocate Nichelle Stigger joined our co-founder, Chris Draft, at his Chicago Bears Alumni Reception. Nichelle was able to share her story with some of the Chicago Bears Legends.
At 32, I embarked on a second career—I love kids and was meant to be a teacher, so I got my master’s in education. That same year my son Parker was born, so I finished my classes online with a baby in tow.
Juggling the two wouldn’t be easy under any circumstances, but ours was particularly tough: Parker has hemophilia, which means he can bleed spontaneously and internally. Falls, broken bones, and even going to the dentist can be concerning. I have to give him intravenous injections. When Parker was two, we found ourselves in the E.R.—except this trip wasn’t for him; it was for me. I was faint and dizzy, and had an immense feeling of malaise.
A chest X-ray revealed a mass on my lung. I knew instantly it was cancer….
Cancer forces you to face your own mortality. It feels like an out-of-body experience, and yet it’s my new normal. Walking up the stairs still winds me, and I can’t work out as hard as I want to. When the weather is hot, it’s very hard to breathe. I used to wonder how I would live without part of my lung. It turns out your body makes up for it, and it’s amazing. Cancer makes everything that much more wonderful and beautiful and sad at the same time.
In 2012, we launched our inaugural Team Draft Survivor Series initiative on CNN during a nationally-televised prime time special focusing on lung cancer and our International Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer. As a part of our International Campaign, the events allow us to celebrate our survivors, raise awareness, and give hope to those battling the disease, as well as shine a light on the important work being done at cancer research and treatment centers around the country.
Team Draft’s goals are to create a unique experience for participating survivors and to raise awareness on a local, national, and international level by using each event and each survivor’s story to weave a broader narrative about the state of cancer and the hope that now exists for those battling the disease.
Special thanks to the Chicago Bears, Lungevity, Astra Zeneca, the NFL and all of our Team Draft supporters for helping make this event possible.