It’s really cool to see the level of support that the Eagles and the NFL as a whole are showing for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone, from the players to the front office and coaches, are really on board with trying to help spread awareness for this cause.
It’s especially cool for me because it’s something that hits home. My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. She’s a 10-year survivor. So obviously breast cancer is something that has impacted myself and my family’s lives on a very personal level.
She was diagnosed when she was 39 years old and she went through chemo for 6 months. At the time, I was 12 years old, in sixth grade I think. I just remember knowing something was wrong and then my parents sat our family down (me, my older brother and younger sister) and tried to explain the situation as best as they could to three young kids who I don’t think necessarily had the grasp of how serious it was.
When you’re younger, you think of your parents as these invincible, immortal beings. And at that age, you don’t really know what cancer is. You just know that it’s a big, scary thing. From my experience, I think my parents, and my mom especially, really tried to shelter us from how bad it was. They didn’t really want us to be scared or worried. That must have been hard for them, and pretty brave on their part.
I remember being confused. My Mom’s hair fell out, she wasn’t feeling good, the chemo was making her sick. As a kid, it’s just kind of hard and confusing, you don’t really know what’s going on. Those are kind of the emotions that were going through my head at the time.
Another thing that stands out to me is how supportive everyone in our community was. Whether it was coming over to help clean up the house or cook us meals (people sent us soooo much food)…everyone was so nice and supportive and really went out of their way to try to help us. That’s one thing that really stands out to me.
It’s weird looking back on it. On one hand, it really made me think about things I hadn’t really thought about before, like how valuable your time with your family is because you never know the things that could happen. Looking back, it makes me realize how strong my parents were – especially my Mom obviously – to go through that and at the same time take care of the family and shelter us from the things that were going on. It really makes me appreciate my parents. I have a lot of respect for them and what they’ve been through.
So it was really great for me to get involved with Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, especially through the NFL. As players, we have such a wide reach, sometimes we don’t even realize quite how wide.
A few weeks ago, my teammate Mark Sanchez and I helped kick off the team’s BCA campaign. We went over to the Linc and hung out with some families whose lives are being affected by breast cancer. We introduced ourselves, hung out with them and painted some chairs pink; chairs that ended up in the Linc for the game that week against the Rams. It formed a pink ribbon in the stands, which was really cool to look at. I shared my story a little bit. Then we told them that we were giving them tickets to the game.
It was cool for me to hang out with families that were in a bit of a similar situation that I was once in when my Mom had breast cancer. I could definitely relate to some of these kids and their families. Not everybody’s stories are the same, everyone’s has a different situation with the cancer, but it is affecting everybody who was there in different ways. It’s hard and scary, and in that sense, I could relate to them.
I actually didn’t really tell them too much of my story. Looking back, I wish I had done that more, to be honest. At the time, I didn’t really want to make it about me. I wanted to hang out with them and try to have fun and be funny and keep things lighthearted. Looking back, I would have liked to tell them my story a little bit more so I could have said, “I know it’s scary, I know how things are right now, but it worked out okay for me and my family.”
I started growing out my hair about five years ago, and I’ll donate it eventually to an organization. I’m going to use it to help raise awareness for cancer and breast cancer. When I eventually donate it, hopefully I’ll be able to raise awareness and money and make a fun event out of it. I’m not quite ready to part with it, but when I do, I think it will be a fun thing. For now, I have my long hair, and it kind of reminds me of the things my family went through, what my Mom went through, and how strong they were. It’s kind of corny, but it’s true.
As players and a league as a whole, we get a lot of exposure. We have the opportunity to help raise awareness for different things. And in the future, I plan on volunteering a lot more of my time to helping families and sharing my story. I’ll try to do whatever I can to help.