Skip to Navigation Skip to Search Skip to Content
Search All Centers

The Formula for Powerful Lung Cancer Awareness

Read Transcript

Published on December 18, 2019

Key Takeaways

Although prevention has been the leading message for decades, lung cancer Chris Draft knows firsthand that non-smokers, like his late wife Keasha, can develop the disease. During this interview, Chris shares his unique perspective on patient advocacy from his work over the past 8 years, changes happening in the cancer community and what it takes to create impactful lung cancer awareness. Watch as Chris describes three factors for improving patient education, access to care and driving research forward.

Featuring

I could just feel this whole audience being uplifted in hope and in survivorship and getting the message from all these professionals. This just opens medicine up tremendously.

— Richard, Lung Cancer town meeting attendee and care partner

You might also like

Transcript | The Formula for Powerful Lung Cancer Awareness

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Laura Levaas:

Hello, everybody.  It's Laura Levaas from Patient Power.  I'm the lung cancer community manager, and today I am joined by Chris Draft of the Chris Draft Family Foundation.  We're here in Denver today at the IASLC annual open house.  

Chris Draft:

Annual Lung Cancer Awareness Month. 

Laura Levaas:

Yeah.  So I thought I would grab Chris and ask him a couple of questions about his advocacy work because it is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. 

And as most of you may know, I have lung cancer, and I was diagnosed two years ago, and it's quite an emotional roller coaster.  I met Chris at a longevity conference in Washington, D.C. two years ago, right after I was diagnosed, and it was very influential for me, and he really made an impact on my lung cancer journey.  So I have a couple of questions for him.  

Chris Draft:

Okay.

Laura Levaas:

Chris's story, just a quick, quick background.  He got involved because his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he decided to dedicate his advocacy work to lung cancer awareness and research after she passed away.  So question for Chris…

Chris Draft:

…can I make an adjustment just on that? 

Laura Levaas:

Oh, absolutely. 

Chris Draft:

It's at Team Draft, our initiative and the Chris Draft Family Foundation is committed to changing the face of lung cancers was started with my wife and really started by my wife.  So it was started with her commitment as a survivor advocate that has decided to fight for other people.  So on our wedding day is when the Team Draft was founded, right?  And that came from my wife saying, hey, we're going to stand up.  We're going to ask our family and friends to support the foundation, and we're going to fight.  So it's important that it did—it came from her in terms of I just validated something that started with her. 

Laura Levaas:

Right.  But it's important that you're continuing with it, because you don't have lung cancer. 

Chris Draft:

So I'm continuing with it, but in doing that I tell people I had to ask myself, be honest about these some very—these questions in terms of could I be—could I understand that nothing that I do would bring my wife back. 

Laura Levaas:

Right. 

Chris Draft:

Could I get that?  Could I really absorb that that's not going to happen in terms of advocacy?  And then, can I be happy?  Can I be happy for people that are doing well?  Like yourself, that's doing amazing and some of the other survivors.  Could I be happy for those survivors?  And then am I going to fight for them? 

Those are really questions I have to ask each day, because it's not just about me saying that.  To be an advocate in this space that's really the question that everybody has to ask, is can they be happy for other people.  Can they do that?  Can they appreciate that we're moving forward even it if it's not happening to them if someone else is doing well…

Laura Levaas:

Right.  

Chris Draft:

…that means that we are moving forward.  

Laura Levaas:

Right. 

Chris Draft:

And then are you willing to fight for people that aren't you, right? 

Laura Levaas:

Mm‑hmm.

Chris Draft:

Can we—can we do that?  And I think you're seeing a lot of those changes.  I know you have four questions for me…

Laura Levaas:

…I do. 

Chris Draft:

But just—I said that as a start because it's important.  It goes in line with my wife in terms of when you have people that make a choice to stand up for other people, then that's when things really change.  

Laura Levaas:

Hm‑hmm.  I agree.  So, Chris, you are in a very unique position I think because you don't have lung cancer.  You're an advocate, and you're in and out of all of these meetings, you travel, you see the patients who have the disease, you see their families, you see their caretakers, you see the physicians.  I imagine you visit with researchers.  You're going to cancer centers. 

How are things changing in the years that you have been doing advocacy work?  Because your perspective is a little bit different from somebody like me or even boots on the street, like people who are raising money for lung cancer.  

Chris Draft:

Well, it really—it depends on where you want to look.  I mean, you can look anywhere or everywhere and you'll see the changes.  Just being here at Lung Cancer Awareness Month open house, and the IASLC is hosting.  This is the third year, third year of this program.  I mean, that's—it's huge.  It's understanding that we need to bring our people together, that we have the fellowship, that we have to get to know each other and are able to rally the troops.  The IASLC five years ago is when the World Lung started being every year. 

Laura Levaas:

Okay. 

Chris Draft:

And that's critically—that's important because it says that research, you know, the progress that was happening, was happening so fast that they had to do it every year, otherwise would be outdated. 

Laura Levaas:

Right. 

Chris Draft:

Again, I'm just pointing at the IASLC this year.  They've had Latin American conferences.  Again, these aren't—these are still fairly new.  This is not the first one this year, but it's still fairly new.  Asian lung cancer conference.  So tremendous work.  You can see the work that's happening.  You can see the research that's improving, and it's naturally making the conferences bigger. 

So if you look at ASCO, which is the biggest cancer conference, the amount of sessions that are lung cancer, that are dedicated to lung cancer have grown dramatically.  The amount of people that are paying attention to what's happening in lung cancer, dramatic changes.  So ASCO, World Lung.  

We look at the amount of drugs, the amount of drugs that have—drastic amount of drugs that have changed from our targeted therapy to amino therapy.  Immunotherapy was first announced at the 2013 ASCO, right?  So my wife passed December 27, 2011, so my journey is that in that.  ALK for an ALK‑positive person was approved in the United States in 2011.  The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial was approved in 2011.  So, again, essentially you can go to every organization and really say, well, what is it—how do you see the improvement.  Let me get to LUNGevity, where we met, the LUNGevity Hope Summit.  Longevity Hope Summit, the first meeting I think had 17 people. 

Laura Levaas:

Wow. 

Chris Draft:

Seventeen people to now, they're about to move the venue because there's been so many people that are coming directly again related to innovation that's happening, drugs that are working, where we're getting more survivors—their Hope Summit next year will probably be 600 people.  And again what a great problem to have that you have to find a new venue. 

Laura Levaas:

Expand. 

Chris Draft:

Right.  You look at a body of the area organization, they had a living room that they created.  They created this space, this space that they said they want this to be everything that a support group usually is not, and that is in a cancer center where it's real stale, it's just not fun and homey. 

And they've created this space, but then they realized that the people in the Bay Area aren't getting a chance to have the connection right in front of them.  And they say, well, we're going to take this on the road, and they've been doing that.  They've gone all over this past year.  They even went to Toronto.  They went down to Mexico just last month, and they had a living room down in Mexico along with being all over the country. 

And then the other side is they have their community cancer centers, this system of kind of validating which ones are some of the top places.  So, I mean, just some tremendous work, and again, we can—it doesn't matter what the organization is.  There's been tremendous growth within it, and at the end of the day what that means is there's more survivors. 

Laura Levaas:

Well, and that's good for people to know.  I mean, Chris is such a foundation of information, and so don't lose hope.  Just know that attention on lung cancer is continuing to grow.  

I did see something on the news the other day, a reporter or someone had asked, well, why so much attention on lung cancer now?  And the answer was, well, there's more survivors now than there ever have been before, and they want their voices heard. 

Chris Draft:

And I would say that there's more attention that goes in line with the work that has happened.  I think to understand a lung cancer journey is to realize it's different and really acknowledge that it's a different cancer.  And so some of the innovation that we've had in lung cancer had to happen after the Human Genome Project was done.  And what we're doing is we are benefitting from that initial investment, that huge investment that now is paying off in so many different areas. 

But lung cancer, that is exactly what is changing.  And so why you see it more now is because we didn't have as much innovation before.  We didn't have it.  That's the key.  Awareness is not just about, hey, lung cancer is bad or something like that.  What a lot of awareness or at least from media is about talking about things that are changing.  

Laura Levaas:

Yeah. 

Chris Draft:

Right? 

Laura Levaas:

Yeah.

Chris Draft:

There are so many things that are changing within lung cancer right now, and it's so critical that we appreciate things that are happening by recognizing where we were so that even though we haven't achieved this ultimate goal of everybody surviving—I mean, again, it is down the line.  That's exactly what we want.  That's what we're focused on, is that we cannot forget that there's progress every day. 

Laura Levaas:

Yeah.  See, this is what we wanted to hear from Chris.  Like if you're losing hope, you're having kind of a crappy day, this is good information to have.  Because one of the questions that I wanted to ask you was for people who feel like they're running out of time.  Like me, I'm on my third line of treatment now because the first two failed it.  You know they all eventually stop working over time. 

Chris Draft:

So let's say that they didn't fail.  They just stopped working.  

Laura Levaas:

They worked until they didn't work anymore.  

Chris Draft:

And they worked until they stopped.  So we want to appreciate that.  We appreciate that because they worked that means we can learn from it them.  And so when you're worrying about what's that next drug, well—and that drug has a chance to be here sooner because they're able to learn from all the other things that have happened. 

Laura Levaas:

Oh, absolutely.  And I'm so appreciative of the people that came before me in clinical trials that made it possible for me to be here today.  

How do we make the cure or the management of lung cancer seem more urgent? 

Chris Draft:

It comes with our survivors.  It comes with our survivors.  It comes with our doctors.  It comes with our community.  Too often in the lung cancer community we're waiting for somebody else to do it.  It was one of the things that was disappointing from the beginning, and it continues to be disappointing, is that every time we're making kind of gains where it seems like we're getting more attention people are surprised by the fact that if you follow a plan, if you pitch a story in the right way and you recognize best practices that people respond. 

Laura Levaas:

Yes.  

Chris Draft:

Right?  So we have to believe in those things and then be unapologetic in the way we go after it.  We have to appreciate the historical stance of lung cancer that was only prevention.  So if people don't know that research matters, if they don't know that, it's because nobody's told them. 

Laura Levaas:

Right. 

Chris Draft:

So we have got to have a sense of surgeries about saying that every day.  So how do we accelerate it is by having a sense of urgency, being honest about what people know, and then going after it every day.  And I could tell you that we're still—we're not there yet because we still have people that are waiting for somebody else to do it rather than knowing that it's going to be us, it's going to be us, and it's going to be us that gets it done.  

Laura Levaas:

And how do we do that? 

Chris Draft:

How do we do it?  We recognize that anyone can get it.  We recognize that historically people don't know it, so awareness is not to just validate what people already know.  Right now we have to accept that the people don't know it.  Are we willing to beat the streets?  Are we willing to make sure that everybody in our camp is in alignment so that we can educate our public and our medical community and make sure that we all recognize that prevention is not enough, that anyone can get it, and we need early detection treatment, research and survivorship. 

And anybody that's not in alignment in saying that, we got to get them in alignment, and then we have to recognize—when I say anyone can get it, I look at you, I look at my wife, and I know that the people out there, they don't know that it can happen.  

The key to breast cancer, the key to all these diseases where they've made huge jumps is they made sure is wasn't just about them.  They made people understand that it could happen to them.  So when I go to a game, we're taking folks to games all over the place, it is not about the survivors that we have there, but it's the survivors that are kind of these examples of the fact that anyone in that stadium…

Laura Levaas:

It's a real person.  

Chris Draft:

You're a real person, but then because you're real it says, if it can happen to Laura, I'm here at a Denver Broncos game, if it can happen to you, man, it can happen to anybody in there.  So if there's 70,000 people there, I'm not wishing it on them, absolutely not, but I do know that it's possible.  

Laura Levaas:

So, Chris, if you don't know, used to be an NFL linebacker.  You played football for how many years? 

Chris Draft:

Twelve years. 

Laura Levaas:

Twelve years.  And so he takes survivors to games all over the country, and he took me to my first Broncos game last year? 

Chris Draft:

Last year. 

Laura Levaas:

And it was amazing experience and, yeah, I'll never forget that. 

Chris Draft:

And really, what are games?  We're trying to identify survivors.  Trying to identify our people that want to stand up.  It's not just going to a game.  It is about where are our survivors?  We're calling them out.  Where are you?  Where are you?  Where are you?  Because—and then we're giving a back drop of a football game along with enjoying the football game. 

Laura Levaas:

Right. 

Chris Draft:

We want to really enjoy it, but at the same time create a back drop that it is a place where more people are connected in the city, and it says it's not just if Laura has lung cancer it can happen, but if Laura this Broncos fan if it can happen to her as a Broncos fan it can happen to any of you Broncos fans, and it's the kind of—it's kind of the same thing across. 

I was at a Buffalo Bills game and Miami Dolphins played the Buffalo Bills.  It can happen at to staff VPs.  It can happen to any Miami Dolphins fans.  Again, not wishing bad on anybody but just recognizing that it's possible. 

Laura Levaas:

Well, thank you, Chris.  Those were all of my questions, and it's always awesome seeing you, and we'll catch you next time.  

Chris Draft:

Awesome.  Thank you. 

Laura Levaas:

Thanks, guys. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

You might also like