After just three games as the head coach of the Indianapolis, Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. He was hospitalized for close to a month and would miss 12 weeks of the season, before returning to the sidelines in week 17 cancer-free. He has remained cancer-free in the two years since then, and he has used his experience fighting cancer to be an incredible encouragement and support to others who are going through similar situations.
One such person? Chiefs safety Eric Berry. Back in December, the three-time Pro Bowler was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Just eight months later, he returned to the field with the Kansas City Chiefs, something that was by far the biggest and best news in the NFL world this week. It was an incredibly tough battle for Berry, but he's thrilled to be back.
Throughout his battle with cancer, Berry received encouragement from a number of people, one of whom was Chuck Pagano. On the same day that Berry told his team that he had lymphoma, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid sent a text message to Pagano informing him of the situation and asking him to call the safety, who Pagano had gotten to know at the Pro Bowl in 2014. He told Berry what to expect from chemo, how family and football helped him get through his battle, and sent him a copy of his book "Sidelined," which details his battle with cancer. Pagano, who told ESPN's Ashley Fox in December that he was "honored and humbled" that Reid asked him to call Berry, kept calling the safety and provided a great encouragement and help.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Berry mentioned his family, teammates, and coaches and how encouraging they were to him, but he also mentioned Chuck Pagano. "Coach Pagano," Berry said, "he would text me and tell me, 'look, they're going to do a bone marrow biopsy. This is what you need to be prepared for - this, this, this, and this.' And he had me prepared for a lot of the things that I wasn't aware of, so I think I was just very blessed to have people to reach out and help me along this whole situation."
The return of Eric Berry to the field is a great story because he beat his battle with lymphoma, and it's awesome to hear about how Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was able to help him along the way because of his own experience battling cancer. Some things are bigger than football, and while it sucks to have to go through it, it's cool to see Pagano using his experience to help and encourage people - even others in the NFL.
And from all of us here at Stampede Blue: welcome back, Eric Berry. Best of luck to you this year.