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Chiefs safety Eric Berry: "Fear Nothing, Attack Everything"

The veteran safety opened up about his battle with cancer

There was something special about the way Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry addressed his battle with cancer to the media on Wednesday afternoon with his parents, Carol and James, both by his side.

Berry was open, honest and genuine as he shared the ups and downs of what the last eight months of his life has looked like.

With his parents support, through a few laughs and also some tears, Berry showed the world what true courage looks like as he went into detail of his doubts, fears and how he ultimately overcame the biggest challenge of his life.

It has only been 247 days since the doctors and athletic trainers discovered a lump in his chest that turned out to be Hodgkin's lymphoma following a game against the Oakland Raiders on November 20.


On June 22, Berry was considered cancer free.

But through six rounds of chemotherapy that took place every other week between December 10 and May 13, Berry attacked this diagnosis with the kind of determination we've come to know from the three-time Pro Bowl defensive back.

From the beginning of this process, Berry was challenged.

He had an allergic reaction to one of the first drugs he was given.

"It was terrible," he explained. "I couldn't sleep. It just drained me."

Not long after that, Berry would briefly succumb to the emotional impact of what he was fighting.

"You'd look down the road and be like, 'I got six more months of this? And we're only on day one?' That kind of hit me hard."

Berry's father spoke about the morning it all kind of came to a head for their family.

"One of the toughest moments we had was during breakfast one morning," Berry's father, James, recalled. "It just hit him. He was just sitting there and all of the sudden he got all teary-eyed and was like, 'Wow, man, I have cancer.' And then he started looking ahead like, 'What if I'm not going to be able to do this or if I can't do that?'

"I sat there and we just cried together, but I told him, 'You've got to take this one day at a time. We can't look ahead and say what the future holds. We just have to fight it the best way we can every day. I told him if you want to cry, then cry, if you want to be sad, then be sad, you can't be everything to everybody. This is the time now for you to look after you."

Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Eric Berry's first day back in uniform since his diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Those words resonated with Berry, who said it was this conversation that really made a difference for him as he continued through this journey.

Berry's mother, Carol, took it upon herself to make sure their house was filled with positive energy.

"She printed out four or five different notes and put them in frames around the house," Berry explained. "Basically it was saying if you come into the house, don't come in here with any negative energy. Don't come in here pouting or upset or anything.

"We want everything positive."

The positive energy was needed on the toughest of days, when even the simplest of actions to most people were anything but to him.

"It was a battle every day," Berry explained. "It was to the point where I had to make goals to where I just had to get out of bed. I would literally stay in bed all day."

He would later set goals of simply trying to do five pushups.


"It was a tough process, but I had a great support system," he explained. "Between my mom and dad being in the trenches with me every day—day in and day out—and just making sure I had everything I needed from an emotional standpoint, physical standpoint, everything.

"That meant so much to me."

Berry opted to have an IV during his chemotherapy treatments, strictly because he wanted to continue his workouts, and having the IV made this feasible.

He was able to work out 10-12 times between treatments, and after each treatment he felt like he'd be starting back at zero because of what the medicine would do to his body.

But that didn't dissuade him from pressing forward.

"There would be times I would work out and I would end up just crying after the workout just because first of all, I couldn't believe that I made it through the workout, but I couldn't believe that it was that hard," he explained. "I was trying to push myself to the limit."

For Berry, the battle wasn't with the medicine or even the lymphoma.

"You're battling yourself the whole time," he explained. "It was really a battle of me versus me."

The support for Berry from around the NFL throughout the latter part of the 2014 season was as widespread as it was heartfelt, and it meant something to him.

From text messages from coaches like the Indianapolis Colts' Chuck Pagano, who had gone through cancer treatments himself and offered words of encouragement to Berry during some of the most difficult times, to players from other NFL teams that simply wanted to check in with him to see how he was doing.

It all meant something to him.

"There's so much stuff that goes on in the NFL that people like to talk about that's kind of negative," Berry noted. "I felt like that was something that was really cool because I felt like the whole NFL family came together and it did a lot for me. It meant a lot. It was probably just a small gesture to some other people, but to me, that meant a lot.

"It meant a lot just to see it because I was sitting on the couch watching all the games. When we weren't playing, I was watching the other teams. Something so small like that can boost your morale when you're in a situation like that."


On several occasions last season, linebacker Justin Houston would travel after a game and spend some time with Berry before he had to report back to Kansas City. Cornerback Sean Smith also made his way down there to see his teammate.

"It meant a whole lot just to sit and chill and talk," Berry said. "Even just outside of a football setting, we see each other so much and we're always talking about football. But just to kick it with them, and the fact that they made that trip, it meant a lot to me.

"Even if they didn't come I would have been good. Just hearing from them would have been good enough for me, but seeing them actually in my living room down in the man cave, it was special."

Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt had visited Berry at his parent's home in Georgia, as well as general manager John Dorsey, coach Andy Reid and vice president of communications, Ted Crews.

"I was very blessed to have so many people reach out to me and give me all of this support," Berry said.

One of Berry's mentors throughout his collegiate career at Tennessee, Inky Johnson, whom Berry wears the No. 29 to honor, not only helped him with what he had already instilled in Berry, but also from a few conversations they had during the process.

"I had little questions for him and he'd just hit me up with the stuff that he was going through," Berry explained. "We'd talk in depth. I think that really, really helped me out. 

"That prepared me for everything I needed to know. He would hit me up every now and then just to see how I was doing. But everything he had taught me, I had to use it. I had to go through that."


But maybe one of the biggest non-football takeaways from this experience for Berry was the time he got to spend with his family.

The circumstances notwithstanding, Berry cherishes the time he was able to spend with his family during this process, which is more than he's had since he was 18 years old.

"That was great," Berry said. "That's why I wouldn't change the process for anything. I moved back in with them. Just being down there with them, waking up and going to see my mom, she was right upstairs. My dad, we'd fall asleep on the couch watching TV, watching Lord of the Rings or whatever. It was cool, man.

"Because when you really look at it, we haven't really been able to spend time like that in a while because it's always 'I got to go and train or the season has started.' It was really good to just sit down and chill with them. It hasn't been like that since high school."

The time also meant everything to Berry's father, James.

"We got back together and it was like the old father-son bond that we used to have when he was staying at home," James explained. "We got to watch TV together and we got to go to the store together. We got to stay up late and eat snacks together, and just talk about father-son type of stuff. It's crazy because we like the same type of movies and shows.

"To me, that time was a defining moment—that he'll always be your little boy. You'll always be there for him and you'll always be his father."

After struggling to do five pushups a day just a few months ago, Berry squatted 325 pounds five times, bench pressed 225 pounds five times and passed every test the athletic training staff recently put in front of him in order for him to get back on the field.

He practiced with his teammates on Wednesday, just eight months removed from his cancer diagnosis.

Simply put, what Berry has accomplished is as amazing as it is inspiring.

"Fear nothing, attack everything, that's kind of how I did things."

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