My name is Gary Brausen and I am honored and excited to represent A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation (ABOHLF) and Team Draft in the 2018 Super Bowl Challenge. I proudly and currently serve on the board of directors and medical research team for ABOHLF, a Minnesota based organization dedicated to lung cancer. Our lofty but achievable fundraiser goal of $20,000.00 will benefit both organizations with 80% of the dollars going to ABOHLF once $5000 is reached and 20% benefitting the Chris Draft Family Foundation. The dollars will be used to fund cutting edge cures for lung cancer, to raise awareness and to support patients and families.
Helping me with this event is Team Brausen, a forceful and impactful group of friends, family and colleagues who supported me, my wife Rosey and two boys Bennett and Alec as we navigated through a stage 3B lung cancer diagnosis in 2011. Our 2018 Super Bowl Challenge centers around a single word, "Hope", something all of us could use a lot more of these days. Here is our story.
In late November of 2010, I was playing hockey three mornings a week, coaching my son’s hockey team and was arguably in the best physical condition of my life. I had just turned 50 and was feeling fantastic. I prided myself on getting enough rest, watching what I ate and getting some form of exercise every day. I was the poster child as to how to live a healthy life. I also never smoked. NEVER.
Then it all started. I first noticed a dry cough while yelling at our hockey practices. What followed was rapid and unexplained weight loss and a significant degradation in my strength and energy. After stepping down as hockey coach and putting off necessary business trips, I decided to put my fear aside and figure out what was going on. After several appointments with primary care physicians, multiple courses of antibiotics and worsening symptoms, I had enough and demanded a chest x-ray.
On March 15, 2011, I received the phone call that changed my life forever. The voice on the other end was my pulmonologist and the first thing he said to me was, “I am sorry Mr. Brausen, you have lung cancer.” I could not believe that me, a non-smoker, an athlete and a hockey player for 40+ years could have lung cancer. At that time, I was like most other people in thinking that lung cancer only affected smokers. How very wrong I was.
Follow on scans and biopsies indicated that I was stage 3B and that the cancer was aggressive but confined to my left lung. On April 7th 2011, I had the diseased lung removed and we immediately asked, “Did you get it all?” The surgeon said he could not, that the surgical margins were positive and that the cancer had invaded my vascular spaces. I was tested for all of the genetic markers at the time and did not qualify for any of them. My oncologist devised a “kitchen sink” treatment plan consisting of chemotherapy and radiation with the purpose of extending my life. There was no plan B in case the treatment did not work. No more bullets in the gun.
Three different oncologists considered my case terminal and this dismal prognosis was communicated to my family and friends. Doctors asked me questions such as, “How do you plan to spend your final days?”, “Are your affairs in order?”, “Have you taken a recent family photo?” I was told that I most likely had no more than a year to live, two at the very most. Unbeknownst to me, my best friend worked on his eulogy for my funeral and planned a golf outing that was meant to be one last hurrah for me.
My treatment concluded in October of 2011, have been cancer free for the 6 ½ years since my surgery and considered cured. Yes, by the sheer grace of God and with the help of some of the very best cancer practitioners in the world, cancer did not win.
Lung cancer 5 year survival rate has been stuck at around 17% for far too long, claims the lives of more than 160,000 Americans each year and is more deadly than breast, colon, prostate and kidney cancers COMBINED. Despite these depressing statistics, there is hope on the horizon for this disease, hope in the form of genetically targeted and immunotherapies, hope in the form of earlier detection and hope in the form of increased awareness in the general public and media. There is certainly much more to be done, we all know that, but the truth is that there is more hope today than ever before for lung cancer patients and I believe that we are the verge of something very significant.
Please join Team Brausen, A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation and Team Draft in our 2018 Super Bowl Challenge to raise research dollars, awareness and ultimately hope for all present and future lung cancer patients.