A nonsmoker who regularly works out, Dan Friedman wasn’t the stereotypical person at risk for lung cancer. Yet there he was in 2011, at age 43, hearing he had the disease.
“It was a shock,” says the married father of three. “Unfortunately, I discovered that lung cancer can attack almost anyone.”
Friedman’s story is more typical than many people think. Smoking is a leading cause of cancer, but other factors, including a family history of the disease and exposure to secondhand smoke or asbestos, are threats too.
Broadening people’s understanding of lung cancer is an important goal of The Chris Draft Family Foundation. As part of a national campaign to change the face of the disease, the Draft foundation invited lung cancer patients and physicians to NFL games across the country on Nov. 18. Friedman, a patient at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, attended a St. Louis Rams game with his wife, Kelly Corday, and their children Mary, 16, and Jon, 14. (Another son, Daniel, 21, is in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Japan.) Siteman oncologist Maria Baggstrom, MD, met Friedman’s family at the Edward Jones Dome for the game against the New York Jets.
“Lung cancer has changed our lives, but we don’t let it control everything we do,” Friedman says. “I continue to work, work out and spend meaningful time with my wife and kids.”
Chris Draft, the former St. Louis Rams linebacker who founded the nonprofit, lost his wife, Keasha, to lung cancer last year. She also was a nonsmoker. The foundation’s “Survivor at Every Game” campaign is meant to educate people about the misconception that lung cancer is only a smoker’s disease, and to encourage more funding for lung cancer research.
“The need for public awareness is critical, and efforts like this make a big difference,” Draft says. “Building awareness is the first step in accelerating the search for a cure.”
Friedman, who was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer in May 2011, has found hope through prayer and his treatment at Siteman. A gene study of his cells showed that he had the EGFR mutation. Fortunately, a drug called Tarceva had been approved as a first-line treatment for lung cancer patients with the mutation. This meant Friedman’s treatment would be simpler than traditional chemotherapy, and most likely more effective, because the drug targets a mutation within cancer cells more accurately.
Just about five weeks after Friedman started treatment with Tarceva, his cancer shrank by more than 90 percent. He and his family are grateful for the reversal and for the healthier and happy times it has brought.
“Improved health makes everything more enjoyable, including the football games I love to watch —win, lose or draw,” Friedman says.
About the Siteman Cancer Center
The Siteman Cancer Center, the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Missouri, is ranked a top 10 cancer facility by U.S. News & World Report. Comprising the cancer research, prevention and treatment programs of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, Siteman is also Missouri’s only member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. For more information, visit http://www.siteman.wustl.edu.
About The Chris Draft Family Foundation
The Chris Draft Family Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation dedicated to strengthening communities by empowering families to live healthy lifestyles. The Foundation focuses on several initiatives with overarching themes that stress the importance of education, healthy lifestyles, character development, personal responsibility, self-discipline and physical fitness. To learn more about the Foundation, visit www.chrisdraftfamilyfoundation.org.