Eric Berry Fighting On

NOVEMBER 09: Scott Chandler #84 of the Buffalo Bills has a pass broken up by Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Update: According to Fox News, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is cleared to return after lymphoma treatments:

"Berry was cleared by the Kansas City medical staff and his own doctors after a battery of tests Tuesday. He will join quarterbacks, rookies and select injured players Wednesday morning for the first practice of training camp on the campus of Missouri Western State University."


Described as a unifier, a leader, and one of the hardest working guys, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Eric Berry began his off-the-field battle with Hodgkin lymphoma in November of 2014, with an official diagnosis in December.

All indicators are that he has been battling cancer with the heart of a champion, and the peace that comes from his of faith in God.

There is no beauty in cancer, but for supporters and onlookers, there is definitely beauty and inspiration to be found in how Berry and those like him bravely keep on going.

The Orange Wristband

Long before he had any signs of disease, and certainly before the pain in his chest that prompted an X-ray and then an MRI, there was a sign of things to come.

Eric Berry had been wearing an orange wristband, the color for leukemia awareness, with the words “TEAM BRICE” on it to show support for 12-year-old Brice Eidson, according to the Kansas City Star.

Last year, Berry and this double leukemia patient became friends, and Brice attended last season’s Chiefs-Broncos game at Arrowhead Stadium.

Leukemia and lymphoma are in the same family of cancers -- thus organizations named the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society -- and although the two diseases have different colored wristbands, survivors have a lot in common, and the cancers themselves have similarities.

Both leukemia and lymphoma are considered blood cancers, or hematologic malignancies. Both can lead to imbalances in the levels of normal, healthy cells circulating; and some of the anti-cancer treatments are even the same. In general, leukemia is more common in children, while lymphomas are more common in adults; but both children and adults may develop either.

2014 Season - and the Earliest Signs

All of the Chiefs players had undergone a full physical in June, which includes routine blood work. However, routine blood tests would not necessarily reveal anything abnormal, and in Berry’s case, all tests came back normal last summer.

According to ESPN, there had been no signs that anything was wrong with Eric Berry until the Oakland game this past fall. With Hodgkin disease, and especially in someone like Berry, in peak physical condition, this lack of symptoms may not be all that strange.

When first seen by doctors, most people with classical Hodgkin lymphoma have a rubbery lymph node that doesn’t hurt at all – typically in the neck area – or they have a mass that can be seen in the chest, like Eric Berry did. What’s more, the symptoms leading up to a diagnosis can seem like an infection, rather than a cancer. And the masses in the chest can become large before they result in discomfort or symptoms related to breathing.

The Stunning Blow

According to the Kansas City Star, Berry had some pain in his chest, and that Friday afternoon, the team physicians got a chest x-ray, but it didn’t reveal anything unusual.

The team's orthopedic physician, Cris Barnthouse, examined him, and things did not make sense from the musculoskeletal perspective – they did not add up.

As reported in the Star, “Berry experienced pain when he moved his arm but was not sensitive to touch, nor was his strength affected. If he had bruised his chest, he would have experienced pain in all three cases.”

Barnthouse recommended Berry get an MRI, and when the radiologists and doctors at The University of Kansas Hospital read the MRI, they discovered that he had a mass in his chest. The next day they did other tests, including CT scans, some blood work and a PET scan.

At that point, the Berry family, along with the Chiefs medical crew, opted for further evaluation in Atlanta, at the Emory University Hospital, in the care of Dr. Christopher Flowers, a specialist in lymphoma.

You can view the presser here, and the responses below the video by well-wishers, sports fans, and lymphoma survivors are touching. The official diagnosis came December 8, 2014

Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Berry

In Atlanta, Dr. Flowers confirmed the goal of Berry’s treatment is to cure his lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma is a very treatable cancer, but that doesn’t mean the treatment is easy. Typically, even with modern anti-cancer therapies, treatment can mean days when all a person wants to do is sleep.

The most recent word comes from Eric Berry’s brother, Evan Berry who is a defensive back for Eric’s former school the Tennessee Volunteers. Evan was interviewed by the media and gave an update on his brother's condition. “He’s doing really good,” he told reporters. “I think he has three more treatments left. To be honest, I don’t really see it affecting him. He’s a very strong person, and he’s continued to keep strong.”

The Chiefs are selling a shirt, which was designed by Berry’s teammates, to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. His teammates wore shirts in support that read, “Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Berry.”

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