One Friday night years back, I ventured out to a high school football game to see what all the hype was about this kid named Eric Berry. On that night, Berry scored a touchdown on a punt return, interception return and running play. Oh, and he threw for a touchdown, too. He was in the 11th grade.
Berry signed with Tennessee, became a star safety with the Volunteers and carried that same dynamic nature to making plays with him into the NFL.
Doctors confirmed that the Kansas City Chiefs’ All-Pro safety has Hodgkin Lymphoma, a mass in his chest tested yesterday revealed as dreaded cancer.
If all goes well, depending on the stage of cancer, the prognosis is good, doctors say, for Berry to make a full recovery. There was no mention of returning to the field. Football does not supersede life.
It’s frustrating and can be scary when life gets in the way of a good time.
Cancer, unfortunately, is a life experience most everyone can relate to in one fashion or another. And it’s never a good thing.
It hits a little harder when the victim is young and strong and vibrant, like Berry.
“I will embrace this process and attack it the same way I do everything else in life,” he said in a statement. “God has more than prepared me for it. For everyone sharing similar struggles, I’m praying for you and keep fighting!”
That’s the essence of the man. He’s never been considered a prima donna, even at Creekside High outside of Atlanta, although he was clearly the best player and most popular student. Same at Tennessee, where he was exceptional enough to be the fifth player selected in the 2010 draft. Same at Kansas City, where he is beloved in the community and in the Chiefs’ locker room.
Berry did not mention football. Right now, it’s all about living.
“That’s my brother; he means a lot to me,” K.C. linebacker Justin Houston said. He wrote “29,” Berry’s number, on his t-shirt under his jersey as a symbol of supporting his friend. “I’m just letting him know I’m always praying with him. He’s on the field with me at all times.”
Berry complained of chest discomfort after the Chiefs’ Nov. 20 game against Oakland. The fears were confirmed at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.
“This is a diagnosis that is very treatable and potentially curable with standard chemotherapy approaches,” said Christopher R. Flowers, director of the Winship Cancer Institute lymphoma program at Emory University in Atlanta, where Berry is being treated.
“The goal of Mr. Berry’s treatment is to cure his lymphoma and we are beginning that treatment now.”
According to cancer.org, the five-year survival rate for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma is 90 percent for those in stage one and two, 80 percent for stage three and 65 percent for stage four.
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
Battling is Berry nature. This battle is for life, not football.