I recently read Mark Fassio's Nov. 9 Steelers Nation essay, "Faith in home team overlaps with hope for defeat of cancer." I could barely finish the article as it sounded eerily familiar to my own personal struggle and my email to Big Ben back in July, when my breast cancer returned after three years of remission.
Faith is what guides the Steelers Nation, and faith is what is keeping me alive.
At the time I wrote to Ben I had just been given a two-year timeline. This former Murrysville girl, now in Georgia, was hoping that would be long enough to see our boys collect their seventh Super Bowl ring.
In September, my timeline was converted to two months.
Since then I have had most of Atlanta praying for me, plus a chunk of Ohio and half of Pittsburgh. My recent CAT scan shows the tumors shrinking and extending me through the holidays.
I have faith that I will still get to see our team play in the Super Bowl again.
Here is my July email that I wrote to Big Ben:
I'm not sure if I will ever have the nerve to send this email, as I've never done anything like this before. But then I've never been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer before, so I am rewriting the script as I go.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and did what all good breast cancer gals do: undergo chemo, lose all my hair, suffer unbearable pain and then pick myself up, brush myself off, grow my hair back and pray that's the end of that.
And it was ... for three years. On June 11, I was to find out that my breast cancer had metastasized into my bones, liver and possibly brain. I was given a number: two. Two years is the good doc's guesstimate of what I have left. (Good news, it's not in my brain!)
So I'm trying to comprehend this enormity of information, and someone tells me, "It's time to work on your bucket list." I stopped in my tracks and tried to think hard of what's on my list. I guess there's something wrong with me because I'm a 50-year-old woman who is very content with her life and how it's been lived.
I told this person that if push came to shove and I had to pick something, I've always wanted to go to the Super Bowl and see my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, win their next ring. (I believe we are working on Seventh Heaven!)
My husband and I are fanatical Steelers fans and it's probably kept our marriage together, as we literally get giddy when football season approaches.
Now, I must preface this by saying I'm the general manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites Flowery Branch in Georgia and it's VERY difficult to have a Steelers shrine in my office when I'm the host hotel for the Atlanta Falcons training camp! (I will say my contact proudly accepted the Terrible Towel I gave him.)
My support for you, Ben, has never faltered. I am happy to see you come into your own both professionally and personally. I have followed you since you were drafted, as I also went to Miami of Ohio.
So I thought I'd give it a try and see if there was any way you could see it through to make it to the Super Bowl this year so I can try and find a way to find two tickets to the Big Game and see my Steelers make history once again.
We don't care what the critics say: Our team and fans are made of grit and we feed off their skepticism! I probably won't hear back from you, but we'll still be cheering here in Georgia, because Steelers Nation is everywhere. Thank you (whoever is reading this) and Go Steelers!
So that's my story. Both of my chemo runs have started in October, and I feel being able to watch the Steelers during them was a huge comfort because they always seem to grind through it, broken and battered, and I feel I shall do the same.
We moved away from Pittsburgh 27 years ago, but Steelers Nation never leaves the home girl.
Here's to another ring, and here's to faith.
Shelley (Holcomb) McMahon of Grayson, Ga., can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PG Portfolio welcomes "Steelers Nation" essays from readers about the bonds the football team has forged among family, friends and strangers. Send your submissions to email@example.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.