Sunday marks the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which NFL players promoted by wearing pink cleats, gloves and towels during October.
Unfortunately for Nick Eason, the fight against breast cancer is a personal one for the Steelers defensive end.
His mother, Iris Wilcox, has been battling the disease that is expected to claim more than 40,000 lives in the United States in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society.
Her struggle has tempered the joy Eason experienced when he won his first Super Bowl last February. It has also put into perspective what Eason went through earlier this season.
The seventh-year veteran did not even dress for the first three games. He then got released, albeit temporarily, because the Steelers needed to add Isaac Redman to the 53-man roster due to injuries at running back.
Not that Eason ever thought of feeling sorry for himself, given what his mother, 49, has endured since undergoing her first chemotherapy treatment last January, the week before the Super Bowl.
“The biggest thing is my mom has a very positive spirit about it,” Eason said. “There’s been days, but not a lot of days, where she’s been depressed or crying. That just helped me to know that she’s OK.”
Eason spent part of his offseason in Georgia taking his mother to chemotherapy treatments and learning as much as he could about breast cancer. In addition to the chemo, Wilcox has had surgery and is currently undergoing radiation treatments.
“It will just be in God’s hands after that,” Eason said.
His mother’s positive outlook isn’t the only thing that has allowed Eason to remain strong. He is deeply religious, and he has also been able to lean on teammates, some of whom have also had their families affected by breast cancer.
“It’s life,” said Eason, one of the genuinely nice guys in the Steelers’ locker room. “We all go through it at some point and time.”
Here is hoping Eason and his mother get to experience something else: Wilcox adding to the more than two million breast cancer survivors that live in the United States.