How do you put into words an amazing experience you wish every breast cancer patient and survivor could have experienced? I don’t know if I can do it justice, but I’ll attempt to do my best.
The story began on a busy day when the last thing I wanted to do was write an essay. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write. I can write all day long about whatever pops into my head. If you give me a topic or an assignment, even if it is something I have written about a hundred times, my brain freezes and my mind goes blank. It’s the hardest thing in the world to do. But Jon insisted I enter the Star Survivor contest he had seen posted on the Dallas Cowboys FB page that morning because he said my story was perfect for the contest. The hardest part was putting this two year journey into less than 999 characters and still fulfilling the requirements of the contest. The easiest part was explaining how the Cowboys were part of my cancer story. My best advice to anyone writing these type of essays is write from your heart. I had to stop trying to get it perfect and just write from my heart. I guess it worked because I was one of five women choosen by Susan G. Komen and the Dallas Cowboys to represent breast cancer survivors during the Cowboys vs Bengals game on Oct. 9th. It was an honor and an experience I will never forget.
Once I was choosen, my principal helped me secure my day away from work. My parents kindly changed their conference days and times. And Rachel from Komen helped this directionally challenge woman find her way to their headquarters. It was here I would meet women who’d quickly go from strangers to friends.
Komen employees gave us quite the welcoming. It was a pink surprise celebration. It took all I had not to shed a tear. We were introduced and pieces of our stories were told. They also showered us in gifts from Komen and from Ford. Rachel took us on a tour of the facility as well. It was awesome to see how far breast cancer research has really come. When you’re the one fighting, it doesn’t seem like enough though. Thankfully, organizations like Komen keep helping fund researchers in the hopes that a cure will be found soon. We all hold on to that hope.
A long line of Komen employees cheered us on as we met Emory and loaded onto the Dallas Cowboys’ bus for a ride to Star Training Facilities in Frisco. We shared our diagnoses and our ups and downs as we battled breast cancer. These conversations proved once again that there is not a standard cancer journey. Everyone has their own unique fight to overcome.
Arriving at “The Star”, we saw our names on the outdoor big screen TV. It was a bit surreal.
Rebecca would join us from the Dallas Cowboys organization and become our new tour guide through this amazing facility. I’ve never seen anything like it before except maybe to say it’s just a smaller version of AT&T Stadium. So much awesomeness and I have too little of a vocabulary to describe it all. I really think the chandelier was one of the things that really stuck out to me and left me in awe though.
It wasn’t too long until we watched the Dallas Cowboys helicopter land outside on the practice field. Jerry Jones got out and made his way across the field to some door down below us.
It didn’t seem like more than a few minutes had passed when Head Coach Jason Garrett arrived to meet us. This was one of my most favorite moments of the entire day. Jason Garrett had no idea during the 2014-2015 season when he was motivating his players to “finish the fight” that he was also motivating me to finish my own fight. I dreaded chemo. I wanted to run away to the beach before ever session. No one let me! So I’d watch and rewatch Garrett’s locker room motivational speeches. I’d laugh. I’d cry. I’d say a prayer and allow God’s peace to flow over me, and then I’d go to chemo. I was able to shake this man’s hand and thank him. That meant that world to me. It was another piece of closure for me. The fight for my own life is no longer a battle. Now, I fight along side the others fighting for their lives.
The tour continued. We stood just inside the practice field doors and chatted as we watched the Cowboys and their coaches slowly trickle out onto the field. They all touch this piece that basically reminds them what an honor and privilege it is to play for the fans of the Dallas Cowboys. That speaks volumes to this entire organization. It’s about the fans, the team, and the organization. It is not about self. I loved that.
It would be here that Jason Garrett would arrive again with five pink Cowboys jerseys with the number five on each one and our own last names on the back. He also gave us super awesome pink sunglasses to shade our eyes from the bright sun, so we could enjoy practice. We needed those shades too. Great fun watching them practice. They are extremely professional men.
We would get to tour the state of the art weightroom and their out-of-this-world-football-shaped locker room that doesn’t stink! But those men aren’t nice and tidy either. That was actually nice though. It proved they were humans treated like supermen. Here more gifts would be waiting for us. By now, I’m completely overwhelmed! We were way past “thank you” being enough hours ago at this point.
During lunch at “The Training Table,” we would meet Gavin Escobar. He seemed a little surprised that we were all Dan Bailey fans. Haha! Emily or Rebecca had to explain to him that we were all number five because there were five of us, not because we all chose Dan Bailey’s number to wear. It was a comical moment. He would tell us of his own battle against cancer. He’s inspiring.
Jason Witten would also come out of the locker room and meet each of us. He’s just as big in real life as he appears on TV, and his heart seems to be as big as he is too.
As if this wasn’t enough, there was still more to our day. We’d load back up on the bus and take a trip to the Gallaria. At Belk we were showered with gifts again and treated to makeovers and a shopping spree. We also received a bra fitting from Walcoll along with a gift certificate. All the employees that helped us here were amazing.
Exhausted but happy, we returned to Komen for another set of interview questions. I really didn’t like the interviewing portion. I have a hard time speaking. I have a really hard time putting my breast cancer journey into a less than three minute spill. There was an amazing God who gave me courage and peace, there were too many amazing people, too many great memories, and too much heartache that somehow turned into a blessing to put into words. So this was not my favorite part of the experience, yet I’m glad they took to time to ask us questions.