The “C” word; it’s one of the most hated words in the dictionary. It’s a word we fear. It affects all of us. We all know someone who has been diagnosed with a strain of this evil disease. Sadly, too many of us know someone who lost his or her battle against it. Cancer. Cancer doesn’t care how young or how old you are. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. This one word can change your life and this one word can change sports.
The University of Tennessee alum and Kansas City Chief’s safety, Eric Berry is the most recent professional athlete to announce that he will now be defending his life by tackling his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He is 25 years old. He’s a professional football player and he has the mindset and work ethic to make cancer fear him.
After complaining of chest pain on November 20th a mass was found in his chest that placed him on a non-football illness list. On December 8th, Dr. Christopher Flowers at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta confirmed his diagnosis.
The following week, the Chief’s played the Broncos but the entire stadium was rooting for Team Berry. It’s the magic of sports. As quickly as sports can divide fans, the power of sports can just as quickly unite fans. And that magic extends beyond the fans.
Players and teams around the league have showed their support for Berry on social media and throughout the league. On December 7th, the Chief’s traveled to Arizona where the Cardinal’s head coach, Bruce Arians, didn’t hesitate to show his support for Berry during warm-ups by wearing a Berry Strong shirt in-front of his home crowd. The Cardinals organization also gave the EB Foundation $10,000.
The University of Tennessee wore a red arrowhead decal with “29 STRONG VFL” on their helmets against Vanderbilt. (29 is Berry’s jersey number, VFL is UT scripture; Vol For Life). Berry’s father played for UT and Berry’s twin brothers, Elliot and Evan are current players for the Vols.
Berry wore #14 while at Tennessee, but changed to #29 in the NFL to honor his friend and mentor, Inky Johnson. Johnson wore #29 at Tennessee, but everything changed for Johnson his junior year (2006) during a routine play against Air Force.
Johnson had a busted a subclavian artery in his chest that caused internal bleeding. To save his life, doctors had to take the main vein out of his leg and plugged it into his chest. Then they discovered he had severe nerve damage in his right shoulder. Johnson is now paralyzed in his right arm. Johnson continued to workout with the team even after his playing days were over and became the inspiration for Berry to be the legacy that he is today on and off campus.
Dr. Flowers is optimistic that Berry’s diagnosis is very treatable and potentially curable with standard chemotherapy approaches. Flowers said that the goal of Mr. Berry’s treatment is to cure his lymphoma and we are beginning that treatment now.
Berry issued the following the statement:
“My family and I are very grateful for the amount of support we have received over the last couple of weeks. I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate all the words of encouragement, the blessings and well wishes. I want to thank the Emory University School of Medicine, along with Dr. Flowers and his team, for all of their hard work and effort in diagnosing and creating a plan for me to battle this thing. I will embrace this process and attack it the same way I do everything else in life. God has more than prepared me for it. For everyone sharing similar struggles, I’m praying for you and keep fighting!”
Berry Strong shirts are currently sold out, but you can sign up to be notified when they are back in stock online. For only $20, 100% of the net proceeds from the sale of the shirts will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It’s a great stocking stuffer to support a great person and an even greater cause.