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10:46 AM

ESPN: The ripple effect of Eric Berry

By Elizabeth Merrill

On one of the good days between treatments, Alyssa Crane made the 45-minute drive from her apartment in Parkville, Missouri, to the Kansas City Chiefs' training camp in the summer of 2015. She had just been diagnosed with cancer a few months earlier, was 24 years old and was scared.

Crane had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and a large mass in her lung. She was told she'd probably never be able to have children.

The trip to camp was a way to escape for a moment, but what Crane really wanted was to meet Eric Berry. Just eight months earlier, the All-Pro safety had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, and now he was back and cleared for practice.

Berry walked up a hill to meet her, and gave her a hug. He talked about some of the symptoms he had, the numbness and the nausea, and "didn't sugarcoat stuff," she said. Most of all, he made her feel comfortable. 

Three and a half years later, Crane is in remission, married and expecting her first child. 

Berry has torn an ACL, had his childhood home in Georgia burn down, fought cancer and ruptured an Achilles tendon (in the 2017 season opener against the New England Patriots.) The heel injury has been particularly confounding because he was listed as day-to-day from September through December this season, played two games, then was sidelined again.

Eric Berry doesn't talk about any frustrations he might have, publicly or even with his teammates. Instead, through nine hard years in the NFL, he has inspired those around him, at times without even playing a down. His influence goes beyond a team and a town, reaching into hospital wards and chemo rooms and school classrooms. 

Around Christmastime, Berry donates toys and money to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Berry doesn't want to do interviews when he visits. He just wants to see the kids. A few years ago, he spoke to a roomful of children facing possible transplants and dialysis. His hair was still gone from chemo, and, in street clothes, he almost looked like one of the young patients. 

"He didn't come here with his uniform on or with an entourage with him," said Dr. Bradley Warady, the director of dialysis and transplantation at Children's Mercy. "It was just him and his mom. He was just a regular guy."

"When they can have someone like an Eric Berry, not only as a football player but as someone who [overcame] a medical challenge himself, that gives kids a boost that's hard to quantify," Warady said.


Read the full story via ESPN

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