KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The test results for Chiefs safety Eric Berry have officially come back, and they revealed what the team originally feared two weeks ago: The 25-year old has lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
More specifically, however, the team announced that Berry has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which accounts for about 10 percent of lymphoma cases and is considered to be highly curable.
“This is a diagnosis that is very treatable and potentially curable with standard chemotherapy approaches,” said Christopher R. Flowers, MD, director of the Emory Lymphoma Program at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute. “The goal of Mr. Berry’s treatment is to cure his lymphoma and we are beginning that treatment now.”
Lymphoma is a group of cancers of a part of the immune system called the lymph system. The cancers fall into two main types, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. According to cancer.org, the five-year survival rate for patients with non-Hodgkin’s is 90 percent for those in stage one and two, 80 percent for stage three and 65 percent for stage four.
It is unclear what stage Berry’s form of cancer is in.
Berry left the team after playing in the Chiefs’ 24-20 loss to Oakland, after which he complained about discomfort in his chest. A weekend of testing discovered that Berry had a mass in the right side of his chest, and trainer Rick Burkholder said lymphoma was the “leading consideration,” though more tests were needed.
Berry, who is from Fairburn, Ga., departed for Emory to undergo testing with his family at his side. He released a statement Monday, again vowing to beat the disease.
“My family and I are very grateful for the amount of support we have received over the last couple of weeks,” Berry said in a statement. “I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate all the words of encouragement, the blessings and well wishes.
“I want to thank the Emory University School of Medicine, along with Dr. Flowers and his team, for all of their hard work and effort in diagnosing and creating a plan for me to battle this thing. I will embrace this process and attack it the same way I do everything else in life. God has more than prepared me for it. For everyone sharing similar struggles, I’m praying for you and keep fighting!”
Berry is the latest professional football player to have his career interrupted by a cancer fight. Houston Texans offensive tackle David Quessenberry, 23, is fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which was diagnosed in June. He is also on the season-ending non-football injury list.
Meanwhile, New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, before his senior season at Boston College in 2009.
Herzlich, however, successfully fought the disease and returned to action for Boston College in 2010, racking up 65 tackles. He went undrafted in 2011 but latched on with the Giants as an undrafted free agent and has remained on the roster ever since. Over the past four years, Herzlich has made 119 combined tackles in 55 total games.
Chiefs players have rallied around Berry the last two weeks. During pre-game warmups, many have been wearing white t-shirts with the slogan “Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Berry” across the front and Berry’s name and number across the back. The shirts, which were designed by Chiefs players, are available for purchase in the Chiefs Pro Shop at Arrowhead Stadium. The shirts are also available online at shop.kcchiefs.com. They are $20.
One-hundred percent of the proceeds received by the Chiefs and the NFL from sales of the shirts will be directed to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer research and treatment.