Cancer has been a family affair for as long as DeAngelo can remember. “Breast cancer, whether I like it or not, is part of my family’s story. That’s why I am so passionate about raising awareness because I have seen firsthand how it can impact others,” says DeAngelo Williams. The BRCA1 mutation runs in his family, which significantly increases the likelihood of developing cancer, in particular, breast cancer. DeAngelo’s mother, Sandra, and her four sisters all carried the gene.
After a successful college football career as a running back for the University of Memphis, DeAngelo went on to play professionally for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. It was in 2009 that he started working to “turn the NFL pink” during the month of October—from dying his hair pink to wearing pink cleats to sharing his mother’s story and the importance of prevention and early detection. DeAngelo was on a mission to make a difference. A woman once shared that she was getting her first mammogram solely because she saw him wearing pink cleats during a game. “Pink is really so much more than just a color. It’s a lifesaver. It’s awareness. If we reach one, we reach millions. If we reach millions, we’re doing our job and getting closer to finding a cure.”
To further this work, he founded the DeAngelo Williams Foundation with a mission to develop and seek initiations to support the eradication of breast cancer through preventative care and research. Unfortunately, by 2011, all four of his mother’s sisters who faced breast cancer passed away from the disease, and in 2014, at the age of 53 after two battles again breast cancer, his mother Sandra also succumbed.
“Because she can no longer spread the message of prevention and early detection, I am now doing it for her,” he says. It is through the foundation that DeAngelo started the initiative “53 Strong for Sandra” that pays for 53 screening mammograms for women in memory of his mother. Last year at the starting line for West FIGHT ON, DeAngelo and Risalyn presented a check for over $10,000 to The UT/West Institute to fund mammograms for women who would not otherwise have access to them. This year, they are back to FIGHT ON for Sandra again and will both be riding 34 miles and raising funds for research and patient services, including screening mammograms, through their team “Williams Warriors.”
“You have a decision to make, and there’s no in between. There’s no, Eh, I’ll fight it today but not tomorrow. You either thrive, or you survive. My mother was the epitome of thriving. She lived. And she still lives on to this day.”
Join DeAngelo, Risalyn and Williams Warriors as they FIGHT ON against cancer on September 15 at West FIGHT ON at Shelby Farms Park. You can join Williams Warriors at http://www.fight.westcancercenter.org/goto/WilliamsWarriors2018. Whether you cycle, run, walk, or simply donate and cheer on the team, YOU are making a difference in the fight against cancer.