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Research is the reason I still have my biggest fan

Jerome Bettis reflects on his mom’s breast cancer diagnosis and deciding to get involved with BCRF

From his high school stadium to the 2006 Super Bowl championship, one person has been in the stands for every single football game Jerome Bettis has played: his mom, Gladys.

“We’ve always had a very close-knit family,” the retired Pittsburgh Steeler, known to fans as “The Bus,” said about their relationship. “My mom made sure we had everything we needed growing up. She is just a beautiful person.”

When Gladys was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, Jerome says it was a painful and scary time for his family. “We didn’t know what to expect,” he said.

RELATED: Gladys Bettis: "Research is the reason I can give back"

Jerome, who lives in Atlanta, flew home to Detroit to join his older siblings and be there for Gladys as she underwent surgery. He vividly remembers waiting in the hospital during her lumpectomy, his mind going to a dark place.

“You don’t want to hear the doctor say, ‘We couldn’t get everything,’” he said. “I was just hoping everything was good.”

As Gladys finished her last round of chemotherapy, Jerome got word that he would be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though Gladys didn’t feel well enough to travel for the announcement, several months later her doctor told her she was cancer-free. At his induction ceremony, Gladys sat front and center in the crowd.

“A year ago, we learned my mother had breast cancer—and it changed all of our lives,” Jerome said in his speech. “But in that moment, I realized where my toughness and my strength really came from.”

The decision to join BCRF’s Board of Directors in 2019 was easy for Jerome: Research is the reason Gladys could see her son become a Hall of Famer. Jerome wants other moms and dads to be there for their children’s important milestones, too.

“I want to try to do everything I can to prevent the next person from going through the pain and the hurt that my mother and our family went through,” he said.

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

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