Opening Statement: "I would first like to start off by saying thank God. I'm truly blessed to come out of this situation, truly blessed to have such a wonderful supporting cast. My support system just took care of me, starting off with my parents, my friends, family and everybody. From my coaching staff, the whole Chiefs Kingdom, Vol Nation, my home back in Atlanta – Fairburn, Georgia. I mean it has just been great. This experience has been a roller coaster, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm just so thankful that the training staff when the whole situation happened, they didn't just sweep it under the rug because they easily could have done that, because at first we couldn't find anything in the x-rays and the MRI kind of showed some things. I mean it could have been so easy for them to say, 'you are okay – get back out there,' but they did the proper protocol, proper procedure and I'm just very thankful for that because without that I don't know where we would be right now. There are just so many people that I want to thank. I'm just excited to be here and be able to stand or sit in front of you and it was exciting to be out at practice today. I'm just at a loss for words right now. If you guys have any questions or anything, I am open to whatever you want to ask."
Q: It looks like you have been optimistic throughout this whole time, starting from this statement when you were first diagnosed. In your heart, did you really think you would be back the first day of training camp playing football?
BERRY:"My whole thing was, it's going to be what it's going to be. At that point I'm going to control what I can control and the two things that I could control was my attitude and my effort. I just tried to go out and wake up everyday and try and build off of what I did the day before. In that situation with anybody going through something like that, that's the only thing you can do is take it day by day. You can't look too far ahead because I did that in the beginning and I ended up crying to my dad about thirty minutes at breakfast because it was a long road. So I just wanted to take it step-by-step and day-by-day and just see where it took me."
Q: From the outside, it kind of looks like it was an easy process – eight months, and boom, you're back. What was it really like?
BERRY:"It was tough. It was a battle everyday. I mean it came to a point where I had to set goals to just get out of bed. Today I'm going to get out of bed , I'm going to make sure I get out of bed and I'm not going to stay in the bed all day, but I literally would stay in the bed all day. It was a tough process, but like I said, I had a great support system and just between my mom and dad being in the trenches with me, day in and day out, and just making sure that I had everything that I needed from an emotional standpoint, physical standpoint, everything, and that meant so much to me. I think I would still be in the same state if I didn't have them. Without them, I don't know how I would have pushed through."
Q:You have trained to be an athlete many times and exhausted yourself laying in a weight room or a field, but was that anything compared to the exhaustion that chemo caused you?
BERRY:"Not at all. To be honest with you, I was training while I was going through chemo and there would be times where I would be working out I would just end up crying after the workout just because first of all, I couldn't believe I even made it through the work out, but I couldn't believe that it was that hard. I was trying to push myself to the limit and I couldn't push myself the way that I wanted to and I just had to break it down and really embrace the process and understand that everything wasn't going to come back over night. When you add chemo into something like this – it is a whole different monster, you know. It literally feels like you are dying. You can't go around people, you get sick easily, you have no energy, certain foods you can't eat – it just zaps you for a good amount of time and really when you look at it, you aren't really battling chemo – you are battling yourself the whole time. It is really a battle of me versus me and once I got my mind in the situation and the mind state where I could just go out there and just do what I could do and control what I could control."
Q: Do you think it took more of a mental or physical toll on you?
BERRY:"It was both, but like I said it started with me. From a mental standpoint, it breaks you down. You can just ask my parents. That's when you are at your weakest. You're vulnerable to everything and the thing about it is, even though you are alone, doesn't mean you are actually alone. You just have sit by yourself and try and think through everything and make sure everything is going to be on the up and up. You just have to have a positive mind set."
Q: How did this journey change you?
BERRY:"I'm a lot more wise. I analyze things before I just go into them and the list is so long. Overall, I'm more wise and I understand and embrace the process. Everything is a process. It doesn't happen over night. Everything is preparation – don't overlook anything. Coach (Andy Reid) always talks about eliminating distractions and I would like to thank you guys for respecting me not wanting to do interviews or doing things like that, but I wanted to eliminate the distractions and focus on what I needed to focus on. Fear nothing, attack everything. That's how I kind of did the things."
Q:Did this experience really show you the type of people who were really there for you and could talk to without revealing a lot?
BERRY: "Yeah, it reveals a lot, but at the same time it reveals that, but you cant put too much into that. A lot of people don't know how to handle that situation on the outside looking in. A lot of people don't know if they are texting you or calling you too much, they don't know how to approach you in that situation. So if they don't hit you up, that's okay because the only person that has to go through that situation is you. As long as you understand that, everything will be cool. I can definitely say that I had some great people step up to the plate – my parents, my friends, Savion and Jason, throughout my whole comeback, trying to work out, through all this, they were right there along with me for the whole process and pushing me to get back on to the field. Justin Houston came down and visited me a number of times after he would play a game just to sit with me before chemo. Sean Smith same thing, Ted Crews texting me, teammates – Alex Smith and everybody, Coach Reid, (John) Dorsey, Ted (Crews) visiting me, (Clark) Hunt coming down to visit me. It was crazy. Even to the point Coach (Chuck) Pagano would text me and tell me, 'they are going to do a bone marrow biopsy – this is what you need to be prepared for, this, this and this.' He had me prepared for a lot of things that I wasn't aware of. I think I was just very blessed for people to reach out and help me along this whole situation."
Q: Do you think football really helped you succeed in fighting for your life and how it felt to get the news?
BERRY:" It was great and I think the whole thing as far as life and playing football, it's all about carry over, even in football. The things you learn in individual, to 7-on-7, to 1-on-1, to team and onto the field on Sundays. Football carries over to life. Whatever you learn in football it carries right over to life and it is vice-versa so the things that you learn in life you carry onto the football field. So I just tried to use all those experiences and everything that I have gone through in the past on and off the field and all of my experiences, I just tried to use it to get through this. To be honest, it felt good to get back onto the field, but in my mind, I still feel like I have work to do. This is just a checkpoint and I'm just going to keep pushing through until we get to where we want as a team."
Q: What did it mean to see Bruce Arians in a Berrystrong shirt and Justin Houston lifting up his jersey and pointing to the No. 29?
BERRY:"The thing I liked about it was it was good to see different people on different teams – not just in the NFL – but there's so much stuff that goes on in the NFL that people like to talk about that's kind of negative on the other side. I felt like that was something that was really cool. I felt like the whole NFL family came together. And that did a lot for me. Just to see them get together for a good cause and just to motivate me and show that they were thinking about me before big games and things like that. It meant a lot. It was a small gesture to other people, but to me, that 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 other teams just to see. Something so small like that, it can boost your morale when you're in a situation like that."
Q: Mr. and Mrs. Berry, how optimistic were you at the beginning of this whole procedure?
JAMES BERRY:"From the start, we were very optimistic about it. Once we found out exactly what it was – not knowing was the biggest part of it – when we got the call and said Eric has a mass in his chest that we discovered, it was kind of disheartening because you didn't know exactly what it was, what kind of cancer it was. But once we got with the doctors at Emory (University) and they told us that it was lymphoma and that it was treatable, we just banded together and we decided we were going to attack this thing head-on. And everything we did was for Eric, it was no longer about us or anybody else, it was strictly about him. As we banded together, we just got positive influence from so many people, friends and family like he said. We just took it head-on and said we were going to beat it."
CAROL BERRY:"As long as I knew what we were dealing with, I was able to work with it. Once I got the diagnosis, how we were going to treat it, James and I went to work."
Q: Eric, what was your reaction when you found out you were cancer-free?
BERRY:"Man, I was just at a loss for words, I was so excited. I think the biggest thing, I was just happy that I made that journey with everybody that was close to me. I think that was the best part about it, because when you're lying there, there were many times when I was like 'man, I don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow.' I'd just be up thinking, scared to go to sleep. Then there would be a point where I would just be like 'Forget it, I'm going to sleep. If I don't wake up, I don't wake up.' The thing about it, just going through it, with the people that's close to you, you don't think about material things, you don't think about things like that. You think about the experiences you have with the people close to you. At the end of the day, that's all that matters. Making it through that journey, even though it was difficult, I got some of my best memories out of that whole process. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. I was just so thankful to go through it with the people around me."
Q: How did you feel on the field today, did it show you how far you've come?
BERRY:"Definitely, it showed me how far I had come. One of my goals used to be to do five pushups a day. Coming from five pushups to being out on the field with my teammates, that's a long way. We still have a long way to go, too. There's some things that I still need to clean up, still need to freshen up on. I'm just going to keep working. We have our goals in mind, we have that vision, I'm going to treat it the same way I did with cancer."
Q: For mom, how did he handle this?
CAROL BERRY:"He handled it well. I had a couple of rough moments. Unfortunately because of being a mother of an NFL player, people don't realize what you go through, downsides, to things that happen. I had a great support group with me. Not only my friends, I had the NFL moms. So I was able to call the chaplain and we would pray together and he would help me deal with getting myself together. No matter what his reaction or what his diagnosis was going to be, I had to be prepared."
Q: How has your outlook changed after going through all of this? Maybe there were some things you didn't like doing before that you have a new perspective on.
BERRY:"My thing is, I'm not really big on meetings. Anything on the field, I love being out on the field, I love walk-throughs, but meetings, that's something that I just, I'm not a fan of. But now, I've learned to just embrace the process, it's not bad. Just focus in, lock in for however long we'll be in there. I just take a lot of notes while I'm doing it, too. It's all a blessing, whether it's meetings, whether it's running gassers, whether it's lifting, it's an opportunity. The best thing to do is just to be thankful for it and just move along with it."
Q: During your conversation with your dad, when you decided to attack it one day at a time, was it something he said to help you come to that?
BERRY:"Like I said, I took from everybody. The one thing that did stick out to me, that he told me, (he said), everybody wants you to be strong in this situation, everybody wants you to be a certain way, the thing he told me is you can't be strong every day. If you want to be mad today, be mad. If you want to be sad today, be sad. But the thing was, don't stay that way either. Once you get it out of your system, go on about your business and get back to work. That was his whole deal the whole time. One thing to talk about how she (Carol Berry) was staying positive. She didn't mention, but she printed out four or five different notes and put them in frames. Basically it was saying if you come in the house, don't come in with any negative energy, don't come in here pouting, upset or anything. We want everything positive. So if you came into the house, you couldn't come in like 'are you okay? How are you doing?' No, you had to come in like you usually come in. I think the energy in our house was a positive feel, too."
Q: Can you explain why you didn't go the traditional route with the PICC line?
BERRY:"I did the IV, the reason was – they call it a port or a PICC line – (if I got that), I wouldn't be able to work out. If I got that, I wouldn't be able to lift a chair you're sitting in, I wouldn't be able to do that. I had already had my mind set to where I wanted to work out, so I went ahead and got the IV, which was probably more dangerous than actually having the port. I'm glad I made the decision, but it was rough. Just having the feelings in my fingers, my veins are totally all out of whack right now. The medicine is very harsh, so it did a little damage to my tissue, but it's fine now. I had some great nurses, too. Them actually being able to get the IV set, which was one of the hardest things for a lot of the people. I had some great nurses, Nurse Stephanie, who is the real MVP of everything. She handled it with so much precision and so much care and she treated all her patients like that. So I felt like I was in very good care."
Q: Were you ever afraid that you might not run through the tunnel again on game day?
BERRY:"To be honest with you, I wasn't afraid of that. I was just taking it day by day. I think the thing that clicked was when Stuart Scott passed, and he made his comment that how you beat cancer is how you live, that really stuck with me. I just kind of embraced that quote and just moved forward like that. Just seeing Robin Roberts, her master class, was crazy because here it is, I'm doing my chemotherapy once every two weeks. Get chemo done on a Wednesday, skip a week and get it done the next Wednesday, whereas Robin Roberts had to do it 10 days consecutively. Anybody that has been through chemo knows what it does to your body, knows how it drains you, knows how it affects you. She did it 10 straight days. Just to see her sit up and doing what she's doing, after that it was like, 'man, I cant complain about anything, I'm getting it once every two weeks.' I just challenged myself and just tried to move forward that way."
Q: How do you come back a pound heavier after chemo?
BERRY:"Eating good, baby. Pops' cooking. That was one of the big things that helped me. Any request I had, because one of the side effects is that your taste buds go and you don't have a taste for anything. Some of the foods don't sit well with you, so my dad did a great job of, 'what do you feel like eating today?' He would go to the store, whip it up, and I had three meals a day. Three meals a day. I think that's how I kept on the weight. The only reason I lost weight was from a bad decision throughout the process, so that was the only reason."
Q: How fast did you see progress once the doctor released you?
BERRY:"It was immediate. The thing with the chemo was that every time I made gains, every time I got the treatment it felt like I got set back again. My wind, my strength, it felt like everything was starting back at ground zero. When I got off of it, it was just like now we're making gains, so everything I did was just positive gains. The effect the chemo had on my lungs and my heart during the process was real harsh, but now everything is back where it's supposed to be so it is what it is and I'm ready."
Q: Do you see yourself raising awareness because of your experiences?
BERRY:"Yeah, probably so, just because that's a part of me now. I have two cancer survivors in my family as well, my aunties. They are some warriors, they are fighters. I feel like I had to do it, regardless of this football thing, whatever, I felt like I had to just come back the best way I could. Anybody that is going through it, it is a tough fight. It's a fight, it's a battle every day. Sometimes you feel like you just can't do it anymore, but you just have to keep fighting because it's always going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Just because it's a cloudy day doesn't mean the sun is not shining. The sun is shining behind the clouds regardless, so you have just got to keep on pushing and hope for that overcast to get out of the way for you."
Q: What was it like for you to see him go through that, and watch him out on the field today?
CAROL BERRY:"I attacked this whole thing as a normal situation, so I didn't expect anything less. Sitting out there today, it was a nice day, I fell asleep. That's kind of how it went. It was a good day. I didn't expect anything different from him."
JAMES BERRY:"I know in the beginning, it was hard. It really was. It was really hard to think that you would see something taken from your son that he really loves so much. Those possibilities always go through your mind, that, 'what if he can't play again?' You think about those type of things. Then, you kick those things to the side, and then you look at him, and when you looked at Eric, it was like, 'this guy is a fighter.' He is not a quitter, he is a fighter. And he wanted it, he wanted to get back out there. His whole demeanor changed into, 'I got a goal to set for myself, and I'll be back.' We rallied behind that and we pushed him. We did everything that we could as a family to get him where he wanted to be. Seeing him out there today, just seeing him when we went to visit him in Florida in his workouts down there, it was remarkable. We had not been anywhere to watch him, but we went to Florida to see how he was progressing, and it was remarkable just to see him move and do the things that he would normally do. Seeing him out there today, it was touching. It was touching."
Q: Did you know you had that fight in you?
BERRY:"I knew it was in there. My friend Inky (Johnson), you know Inky, he always tells me, 'Bring it out of you. There's always somebody in there that's willing to go harder than you are.' I just kind of went through that with that in mind, and I guess we brought him out. Like I said, we're not done yet, we still got a lot of work to do. We're just going to keep pushing forward. It was definitely a tough battle, but sometimes you have to go through it. You have to go through it."
Q: What did your doctors tell you about how much progress you still have to make?
BERRY:"They called Rick Burkholder and were just like, 'he's all yours, whatever you all want to do, he's cleared to do whatever you all want to do.'"
Q: How much further do you have to go physically to get back to normal?
BERRY:"It's just knocking the rust off. That's it."
Q: Was the Raiders game the first time you knew something was off?
BERRY:"That was the first time I just felt like not even playing football in my whole life. Every time I step out on the field or get ready to play the game, I want to play. That was the first time that I was just like, 'something is not right.' Thank God what happened, happened. I actually ran into Hussain Abdullah on a play, and it kind of just snowballed. I was just so thankful that Rick and the training staff did not sweep that under the rug, and think that I was just saying, 'hey, I'm a little nicked up.' They actually did the extra things that they needed to do to make sure everything was straight. We found out what was going on and got everything handled."
Q: So that night was the first time you knew something was wrong? BERRY:"Yeah. I was talking to my dad and I was like, 'man, I'm a little winded from the previous game and maybe I need to do some more things to get back in shape,' and he was like, 'well, okay just do what you need to do.' I was doing extra cardio and things like that, but in reality I was in shape. If I wasn't going to be in shape, I wouldn't have been in shape by that point because I did so much. My body was actually fighting something else so that was the reason my body was so tired. Like I said, I'm just thankful they did what they were supposed to do."