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Research Is the Reason I Can Give Back

By BCRF | September 30, 2020

Gladys Bettis, mom to retired Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis, shares why she supports research

Six years ago, when Gladys Bettis found out the lump in her right breast was malignant, her first thought was: I can’t tell my children.

“My heart just sunk,” she said. “Based on the little that I knew about breast cancer, I thought it was a death sentence. I’ve learned since then that it isn’t always.”

Still, that evening, she called her three children—Kimberly, John, and Jerome, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and retired Pittsburgh Steeler who joined BCRF’s Board of Directors last year—to share her diagnosis. They leapt into action.

“Jerome was like, ‘OK mom, where do we go from here? We will deal with this, and we will be there for your appointments,’” Gladys remembered. “I never felt alone.”

Gladys was subsequently diagnosed with stage II invasive lobular carcinoma and underwent a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Jerome, who lives in Atlanta, flew home to Detroit to join his older siblings and be there for Gladys during treatment.

As Gladys finished chemotherapy, Jerome found out he would be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A few months later, Gladys’ doctor pronounced her cancer-free, and she was able to travel to Ohio to see him inducted.

RELATED: Jerome Bettis: “Research is the reason I still have my biggest fan”

On the other side of her diagnosis, Gladys, who is 74 years old, said she feels fulfilled connecting with people undergoing treatment and sharing her experience. 

“I have talked to so many women—to tell them about how I felt and what I went through,” she said.

Gladys credits research for the fact that her breast cancer was treatable, but with more than 42,000 women and men dying each year from metastatic disease, she says we need to do more.

“Research is how we’ll end this disease,” she said.

Read more personal stories about breast cancer from BCRF’s Research Is The Reason campaign here.