In December 2010, Keasha Rutledge Draft was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer when she went to her doctor after feeling a slight shortness of breath a few days earlier. 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 never smoked and was the picture of health at the time of her diagnosis. Despite the diagnosis and knowing the long odds they faced, Keasha and her husband, former NFL linebacker, Chris Draft decided to fight back. On November 27, 2011, standing side-by-side, they launched Team Draft together at their wedding. One month later, Keasha lost her courageous fight.
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. Between 20,000 and 30,000 people who have never smoked—including Keasha—are diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States each year. Yet, despite the fact that lung cancer is the number one cancer kill for women and kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney, and melanoma cancer combined, these cancers receive proportionality more research funding than does lung cancer, largely because of the stigma associated with the disease. Team Draft is out to change all that, and during Super Bowl Week in Indianapolis, Team Draft kicked off a national campaign to change the face of lung cancer.
The week began with Chris Draft hitting “radio row” to raise lung cancer awareness by telling Keasha’s inspiring story and challenging people to respond on national and local radio shows across the country. Chris carried that message to the Super Bowl of Gospel, where he gave a powerful testimonial about Keasha’s indomitable spirit and grace in the face of this life-threatening disease.
Later in the week, Chris toured Indianapolis’ newly-expanded St. Francis Cancer Center where he had the opportunity to talk with doctors, hospital administrators and staff, and to visit with patients. The 90,000 square foot facility includes a salon where patients can be fitted with wigs in a private, comfortable environment, a retail center, a patient resource center, and a magnificent two-story glass lobby adjacent to a private outdoor courtyard, providing natural light and pleasant outdoor surroundings accessible to patients and their families. These amenities highlight St. Francis’ commitment to treating the entire patient, and not just the disease.
Team Draft is dedicated to leading improvements in the patient treatment experience by improving cancer treatment facilities and creating a better environment in which those battling the disease can fight. The St. Francis Cancer Center is just the first stop on a national tour of state-of-the-art cancer centers Team Draft will be going on to identify best practices in patient care and cancer treatment.
The campaign kick-off concluded on Super Bowl Sunday when, as part of a special edition of Sunday NFL Countdown, ESPN premiered Jeremy Schaap’s touching profile of Chris and Keasha, and their commitment to dance, smile, and live as they fought lung cancer together.
Team Draft is committed to carrying on that fight by promoting awareness, research, and scholarship through its national campaign to change the face of lung cancer, but it takes a team to tackle cancer, and we need your help. Respond and Donate Today!