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Redskins Host Luncheon With Breast Cancer Survivors

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Breast cancer is an equal opportunity destroyer.

It respects no socio-economic lines, afflicting the poor, the well off, the middle class. It does not discriminate in terms of age, attacking the young and the old. It assaults women of all races and colors with its threats to their physical, mental and emotional well-being and often their lives.

Women whose paths might otherwise not cross joined to laugh, lunch and chat on Tuesday at Redskins Park at the 2nd Annual All Star Survivors Luncheon. Twenty women from the Washington, D.C. area who are breast cancer survivors joined hosts Chris and Christy Cooley and Derrick and Emma Dockery to celebrate another day of living.

Chris Cooley, the Redskins tight end, started this program a year ago after his mother was stricken with breast cancer. He saw how the family struggled to cope, how she fought to beat this disease, the toll that a double mastectomy and radiation treatments imposed.

Dockery's mom Sheila, 52, is a 15-year breast cancer survivor. But his aunt, his mom's sister, died of breast cancer a year ago. His wife's mother lost her battle three years ago.

"This is something we're passionate about," the Redskins guard said. "My mother caught it in the early stages and I was a kid and I never really understood the whole cancer thing. But then it happened to my wife's mom three years ago. I saw it first-hand again. We miss her."

Last year, Dockery watched his aunt lose weight, then hair, then her life. So he and his wife joined the Cooleys in this effort with the American Cancer Society to gather survivors, let them tour Redskins Park and get some health and personal care tips, including jeans donated by Gap Inc.

A number of other players, coaches, wives and family members volunteered their time, along with the Cooleys and Dockerys.

Tanya Snyder, 47, is the NFL National Spokesperson for Breast Cancer Awareness. The wife of Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder, she too is a survivor. She has had two surgeries and took part in July in the Race for The Cure in Aspen.

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Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Daniel M.
Snyder, is the NFL National Spokesperson for
Breast Cancer Awareness. (Ned Dishman Photo)

Careful always about diet and exercise, she learned a bitter lesson from her illness.

"This past year taught me I'm not invincible," she said. "It hit me so hard I thought I had to speak out on this through the NFL."

Not that she is a stranger to the fight.

"Five years ago I experienced it first-hand with my mother. It was pretty devastating. Last year? Me," said the mother of three.

She said she had been "passionate about this cause" throughout her husband's 11-year stewardship of the Redskins. FedExField will be a focal point of the NFL's "A Crucial Catch" screening campaign on Sunday for the team's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Look for players in pink equipment, from cleats to gloves to sideline towels, pink goal-post padding and the distribution of ZTA Think Pink ribbons and breast cancer awareness cards to fans.

Just before the program began, Margaret Walke, 62, of Ashburn, visited with the Dockerys. She will soon go back to her job in security at Lockheed Martin. She's lively and outgoing and laughed at the idea that she could stay home and collect disability payments instead of working as she beats back breast cancer.

"I would just blow my retirement money," she said. "Disability? I want to live. You have to plunge on. I can't deal with negative energy."

She was diagnosed last November and counterattacked.

"My doctor said, 'Let's wait six months.' I said, 'Let's not. I'm a big girl.'"

She underwent chemotherapy and has five more radiation treatments.

"I never thought I'd be a survivor," she said.

She's that, and a thriver.

Emma Dockery led the group in a cheer before the participants headed to the lower level of Redskins Park for lunch.

It is worth repeating:

"I'm here today because I fought and won. I realize life has just begun."


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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