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Chris Draft: Passion for Keasha, Football and Advocacy (Part III)

Read Chris Draft: Passion for Keasha, Football and Advocacy — Part I.
Read Chris Draft: Passion for Keasha, Football and Advocacy — Part II.

After Keasha’s death, Chris dedicated himself to lung cancer advocacy.

“I basically told all the people around me that I was going to give at least a year — right away — to the lung cancer community to try to do as much as possible.”

Taking action for the lung cancer community

When Chris was playing football at Stanford, he had been diagnosed with asthma. So, prior to Keasha’s lung cancer diagnosis, Chris had a previous relationship with the American Lung Association.

“I reached out to the American Lung Association,” he says. “We had worked with American Lung since 2005 on asthma initiatives. I felt like that would be a group we can work with and do a lot more with.”

He was disappointed that at that time the American Lung Association lacked a meaningful lung cancer campaign.

“They said all have are facts,” says Chris. “The important thing I found out right away, the two biggest groups or two biggest voices that you would think of with lung cancer is that neither one of them was ready to talk about the importance of research.

“Even though I had the endorsement of the commissioner, even though I had the support of the NFL, even though I had ESPN involved, they weren’t ready.”

Convincing others that research matters

Chris and others supporting him had to consider the underlying issue they were dealing with.

“Take the emotion away,” says Chris, “I had just lost my wife. But what’s really the problem? It was obvious to me and the rest of our team that the problem was that if the American Cancer Society doesn’t say that research matters and if CDC doesn’t say research matters, then who does?

“Obviously, the public would not know that research matters if those three don’t say it. If they don’t say it, we’re absolutely in trouble. How would people know? How do we move things forward?

“If we want people to know that research matters, if the cancer centers are saying it then we’ve got to build a relationship with our experts. If we want to raise the level of awareness, which is tied to media, for publicity, it’s very local. If we want to do something locally, that means we have to go to our cancer centers.

“I went to 60 cancer centers in that first year,” says Chris. “How can our cancer centers talk about how research matters if the cancer center’s external communications people don’t know that research matters? How can they even pitch the story? And if there’s not a survivor who’s willing to stand up, then they are not going to pitch the story.”

The dangers of stigma

Chris sees a correlation between lung cancer stigma and prevention campaigns.

“People said there was a stigma that got in the way,” he says. “But for us, it was obvious it wasn’t just about the fact that there is this stigma. The prevention campaign of 50 years made it where there was a lack of knowledge. There was this big area of ignorance that people had been taught that prevention was the only thing that could be done for lung cancer.

“We’re fighting against a campaign, the campaign that it’s only about prevention. We have got to get the American Cancer Society, CDC, and American Lung to say that survivorship is the goal. American Lung has done that (with their Lung Force campaign). And the other two are coming along.”

The goal needs to be survivorship

Chris adds that prevention campaigns are the reason people don’t realize the importance of research. The lung cancer community also needs cancer centers to recognize the importance of survivorship, as well as the entire medical community, he says.

“They haven’t been told,” Chris says. “What we understood very easily, to change the face of lung cancer was to make people understand that survivorship is the goal…that has to be the goal. When survivorship is the goal then we can appreciate the importance of early detection, treatment, and research. Without making survivorship the goal then we’re going to always be disappointed, right? The fact things weren’t where we wanted them to be doesn’t mean that we can’t fight to change it. Survivorship as the goal means we must accept where we stand. We don’t have to like where we stand, but we have to accept it. That’s why we fight for more research to be able to push things forward.”

Read Part IV of Chris Draft: Passion for Keasha, Football and Advocacy – coming soon.

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