Just 10 months after a cancerous mass was discovered in his chest and nine months after his official Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry returned to his home stadium on Thursday night, donning his pads and helmet, ready to resume his NFL career.
Backpedaling, hopping and high-fiving his way down the field, Berry, a defensive lynchpin for the Chiefs prior to his diagnosis, was the last member of the Chiefs to be introduced prior to Thursday night's kickoff against the Denver Broncos.
While the safety likely expected an emotional scene at the stadium, he was not anticipating what awaited him at the team hotel.
A group of staff members including his own nurse from the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University surprised Berry before the game, handing him a sign emblazoned with the words “Berry Brave” -- the phrase employed by Chief players, fans and others who wished to show their support throughout his treatment.
On the night of the game, Berry tallied four tackles in what was ultimately a comeback victory for the Broncos.
Last fall, Berry had first realized that his health was askew when he experienced chest pain in his team’s Nov. 20 matchup against Oakland. Two days later, he was told of the possibility of lymphoma -- a diagnosis that turned out to be correct.
In June, after undergoing months of chemotherapy in Atlanta, Berry received the news that he was cancer-free, and was subsequently cleared to participate in football activity in late July, just in time for the first day of the Chiefs’ minicamp.
While, according to the Kansas City Star’s Terez A. Paylor, there had been moments during his treatment when Berry was unsure whether he could do even five pushups, by late July he had worked his way back, and was eventually able to bench-press 275 pounds.
On Thursday, his return to relative normalcy was complete. Striding onto the field of the familiar Arrowhead Stadium, earning his first start of the season and notching a solo tackle in the contest’s opening moments -- Berry was officially back.
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