Seahawks strong safety Kelcie McCray doesn't remember when his mother had breast cancer, because he wasn't born yet. Years later, after his mom Brenda passed away from another health ailment, McCray heard about her cancer from his aunts.
"I didn't know she had breast cancer, but my aunties told me that she went through treatment and recovered before having me," McCray said. "It's something I've never forgotten."
McCray took part in the NFL's A Crucial Catch Screening Day at HealthPoint-Midway in Des Moines, Wash. on October 25, the culmination of an initiative that raises money for breast cancer research. A Crucial Catch is a partnership between the National Football League and the American Cancer Society. The initiative is focused on the importance of regular breast cancer screenings.
For six hours, underserved women, most without health insurance, trickled in at a steady pace to get free mammograms and learn more about the risks of breast cancer. Because the Seattle Seahawks participated in A Crucial Catch (the game between the Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons was the 'pink game') McCray, a handful of Sea Gals and Blitz, the energetic mascot, showed up to lend support and celebrate the program.
"If, by coming here today, one more woman decides to get screened for breast cancer, then I am happy to be here," said the shy, soft-spoken McCray, who told a lobby full of families that he doesn't usually do public speaking.
Catherine Kamau came to the United States from Kenya eight years ago to build a better life for herself. Without health insurance, Kamau was unable to afford a mammogram. When she heard about free breast cancer screenings through A Crucial Catch, she signed up.
"Crucial Catch saved my life," said Kamau, who learned she had Stage I breast cancer. "Without it, I would have died. My cancer would not have been detected and because it was fast-growing, I would not likely be a survivor. I owe my life to this program."
Celia Freeman is a patient with HealthPoint Auburn. She had heard of Crucial Catch at the medical clinic, but said she was afraid to get a mammogram. I didn't want to know," she said, but at the urging of her doctor, she finally agreed to have a mammogram. They found breast cancer, but at an early stage.
"I also would not be here today had the mammogram not been available to me," said Freeman, who attended the Crucial Catch game and was honored at halftime. "I urge women to put aside their fears and be screened."
Without Crucial Catch screenings, many low-income women would be at risk, said Audrey Fine, American Cancer Society's Health Systems manager.
"We value our partnership and on-going work with HealthPointand the Seattle Seahawks," said Fine. "With HealthPoint, we are aligned in our mission to increase breast cancer screening for women who may not otherwise access this important method of early detection. Together, we are seeking to save more lives from cancer. Diagnosing breast cancer early is key to preventing this devastating disease in women."
Throughout October, NFL games have featured players, coaches, and referees wearing pink game apparel, as well as additional on-field and in-stadium branding, all to help raise awareness and raise funds for breast cancer research. Money raised benefits the American Cancer Society's
Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program.
Since 2012, CHANGE grants have been awarded to community partners, such as HealthPoint, to provide education, outreach, navigation and access to cancer screening within communities experiencing an unequal burden of cancer. These community partners have provided more than 260,000 outreach and education engagements and have contributed to more than 120,000 breast cancer screenings provided at low or no cost. This initiative has raised nearly $15 million.
CenturyLink Field and the Seahawks are repping pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.