Story by Kitt Amundson
If you are reading this article chances are you are in the Budweiser Events Center. Look to your left, then look to your right. Statistically, one of the three of you will face cancer. Put another way that is nearly eight players from the Eagles active roster will drop the gloves against cancer in their lifetime. “You have cancer”, is the phrase that no one wants to hear. Maybe even worse than that, is being told by a loved one, “I have cancer.”
Eagles forward AJ Greer heard it from two of the most important people in his life; his parents. Greer relayed a very personal story, “both of my parents had cancer. The first time that I went to see my mom in the hospital she was going through chemotherapy. She had almost no hair and was attached to all these wires. I just broke down crying. My Dad took me aside and told me that we had to be strong and stay positive for my mom. We only got to see her for an hour or two, once or twice a week. That was her family time and we all wanted to enjoy that time, not spend it crying or making my mom cry. I don’t mean to say that we were lucky to have gone through her cancer experience, but it prepared us for the news we got this summer that my dad had cancer. He had surgery, and all is good. I am lucky to be able to say that both of my parents survived cancer. For me it is a really important subject and a special day whenever we do anything to help fight cancer.”
In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the US; unfortunately 609,640 people will die from cancer. Broken down 4,750 new cases of cancer diagnosed a day. Since the early 90’s the overall cancer death rate has declined, while the number of survivors has increased. These trends indicate that progress is being made against this nasty disease, but so much work still remains.
The Colorado Eagles are proud to have joined with UCHealth in the fight against cancer for over ten years. As an organization, the Eagles have raised over $350,000 for the UCHealth Cancer Center in Fort Collins. This has been made possible through the Eagles Fight Cancer initiative over the past ten years. Eagles’ fans have helped raise this amount through Eagles Fight Cancer jersey auctions and other fundraisers. This year the Eagles Fight Cancer Jersey Auction will be held on Handbid, with all the proceeds going to the UCHealth Cancer Center and the Patient Assistance Fund.
“Cancer is a terrible thing. Everyone knows someone who has gone through it. As hockey players, we want to try and bring some kind of positive experience to those fighting it”, said Eagles defenseman Mason Geertsen. While in San Antonio, he got a chance to know some of the kids in the local cancer ward. They still stay in touch with one another. Geertsen, who is currently ranked sixth in the AHL in penalty minutes this season , is in awe of the kids he befriended. “It is crazy how tough those kids are who are fighting cancer. You have no idea what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ with those kids. The treatments they have, the needles they get stuck with or the pain they go through. I can’t even fathom what it might be like. When I was in San Antonio, I spent time talking to the families of kids fighting cancer. They [the families] go through everything that their kids is going through. It takes a toll on them. I don’t even want to think about the medical bills families have. It is hard enough to raise a child, let alone one with cancer.” In case you don’t know which Eagle player Geertsen is, just look for the locks flowing out of the back of his helmet. Last year Geertsen started to grow his hair, “Finally I decided that I should just grow it out. Make a commitment to let it grow for the season and then cut it all off to donate to Children With Hair Loss. I will donate as much as I can”, he said.
For Greer, working with children affected by cancer is something close to his heart. “It is important to me. My brother had some complications as a child. They continued until he was 18. As a result I spent a lot of time in children’s hospitals. That time made me want to give back. Through visiting the hospitals and getting to know the patients, I have made friendships and met some incredible people along the way. That gives me the motivation to keep doing it and it is really special to me to have the opportunity. I stay in touch with the kids I meet.” Greer continues, “Cancer is something that hits a lot of people. For me, it hit my family twice. I think it is important to advance research and do all that we can against cancer so that it keeps getting better and better for folks. Hockey is a tough sport but the kids fighting cancer are amazing. They battle so hard, and yet stay so positive. It really shines a light on how lucky we are as athletes to be able to do what we do. All we can try to do is help those kids going through that experience. It is important for everyone to fight cancer. It affects a lot more people than one might think. It is something that we have to keep talking about and fighting for.”
To learn more about the Eagles Fight Cancer initiative visit the Guest Services booth at any home Eagles game or contact the Eagles Corporate Offices at (970) 686-SHOT (7468). This year, the Eagles Fight Cancer Jersey Auction will be held via Handbid, ColoradoEagles.com/media-fanzone/auctions and conclude at 9pm MST on Saturday, January 19th.