AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – He tackled pro football players for 12 years, but former NFL linebacker Chris Draft is now battling a disease that took his love, and changed his life.
Draft is on the road again with “Team Draft,” determined to spread the word that lung cancer is one of the biggest killers out there and that it can affect anyone. Draft wanted to know all about the University of Colorado Cancer Center and CBS4’s Kathy Walsh went along.
Draft understands what it’s like to tackle cancer after the love of his life was taken by the disease. That was Keasha Rutledge. Draft met her in 2006 while he was a linebacker with the Carolina Panthers. She was an engineer and a dancer.
“Intelligent, intelligent woman; she actually graduated high school in three years,” Draft said.
In 2010, Draft retired and they were finally together.
“Two days before Christmas, her Christmas present was to find out she had a mass in her lung and then two days after they confirmed that it was cancer,” Draft said.
Keasha never smoked, yet she had Stage 4 lung cancer and was given only eight months to live — the fight was on.
“Radiation and chemo — and she was always smiling,” Draft said.
On Nov. 27, 2011, the pair got married. One month to the day later Keasha died.
The former pro is now teaming up with cancer centers across the country. He’s on a mission to change the face of lung cancer.
“The first thing they think is smoking, but the numbers are clear — between 15 and 20 percent are never smokers,” Draft said.
Draft points out lung cancer is the number one cancer killer. He shares Keasha’s story with patients whenever he can.
“That they can be energized regardless of how long they have, they are living.”
The University of Colorado Cancer Center was Draft’s 40th stop in his tour of top cancer centers in America. It’s also where doctors are finding success with medications made to match the genes of a particular lung cancer.