A passion for lung cancer research moved two lung cancer survivors to raise money for the cause. Now with the help of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, one is going to the Super Bowl and the other will head to Hawaii for the NFL Pro Bowl.
Kim Ringen and Kathy Weber have a lot in common. Both live in Colorado, they are both fans of the Denver Broncos and both received treatment at University of Colorado Cancer Center. Kim and Kathy also want to share their stories and so they took part in the 2016 Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge sponsored by Team Draft, an initiative of The Chris Draft Family Foundation, which aims to change the misconception about lung cancer as purely a smoker’s disease.
Super Bowl Challenge winners Kathy Weber (left) and Kim Ringen (right) with challenge creator Chris Draft. The trio was interviewed by Kathy Walsh of CBS4 Denver.
Former NFL linebacker Chris Draft and his wife launched Team Draft at their wedding. Keasha Draft passed away in December 2011 about a year after her stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. The Super Bowl Challenge recruits lung cancer survivors to raise funds to find new ways to combat the disease.
Kim Ringen, DVM, of Denver, won the challenge raising more than $23,000. She was diagnosed with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer in May 2013. Since then, she has been busy learning about her cancer and participating in clinical trials through CU Cancer Center. She is passionate about living life to its fullest with her husband and caregiver extraordinaire, Davin, and their family and friends. Ringen, a never-smoker also is quick to point out that anyone “with lungs can get lung cancer.”
Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of men and women worldwide. Approximately 20 percent of new diagnoses are in women who have never smoked.
“Going to Super Bowl 50 will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” says Ringen. “Hopefully we will be rooting for the Broncos! It will be an amazing experience to be in the stands, as we feel the rumble of the crowd.”
Kim believes advances in lung cancer research are keeping her alive so she committed 50 percent of her fundraising efforts to the Lung Cancer Colorado Fund (LCCF). The other 50 percent benefits Team Draft.
“We chose this fund because a lot of lung cancer patients reach out to the Center for consultation as they are one of the leaders in lung cancer research,” says Ringen. “CU Cancer Center offers remote consultation – offering expertise without the patient needing to travel. We hope the funds impact lung cancer patients not only in Colorado but nationwide.”
Overseen by the physicians and scientists of CU Cancer Center’s Lung Cancer Program, LCCF is used to support basic, clinical and translational research, training of the next generation of physician/scientists and patient financial assistance.
“The Super Bowl Challenge achieves some amazing things in terms of public awareness and changing perceptions about lung cancer,” says D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD, director of thoracic oncology at CU Cancer Center. “We are always thankful to be included in the fundraising efforts so we can continue to fight lung cancer in the laboratory and the clinic.”
Ringen initially contacted a group of 15 friends and family by email and asked them to be captains for her team. They then took to social media, mainly Facebook, and posted pictures and Kim’s story to help spread awareness about lung cancer.
“When I think about winning the Super Bowl Challenge – I don’t think that ‘I’ won the challenge,” says Ringen. “I say ‘we’ won the challenge because I could not have reached this goal without my friends and family!”
Lung cancer survivor Kathy Weber, of Kiowa, raised more than $8,000 to take second place in the Super Bowl Challenge, earning Kathy and her family a trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii on Jan. 31, 2016.
Weber had been training for figure body building competitions when she noticed pushups becoming more difficult, but only on one side. Her physical therapist suggested a trip to the doctor. The lung cancer was discovered in the spring of 2014. Weber had the upper lobe of one of her lungs removed by CU Cancer Center thoracic surgeon Michael Weyant, MD.
“Kathy’s case is another illustration that anyone can get lung cancer, even non-smokers,” says Weyant. “Kathy also benefited from the least invasive, video-assisted approach to the surgery, which allowed her to return to her active lifestyle after the operation.”
Weyant says this was all made possible because the tumor was found in its early stages.
“I am very happy to tell you that I am now a lung cancer survivor,” says Weber “I still struggle with breathing when I work out but continue to push myself in the gym. I believe that my physical health and strength contribute to my well-being and helped me with my recovery.”
Half of the money Weber raised will go to the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Foundation. IASLC is a global organization dedicated to the study of lung cancer.