Thanks to a technology assist from Microsoft, Cheryl Liberty-Turner and other 12s with cancer were able to chat with players in the tunnel before their victory over the Jaguars.
When the Seattle Seahawks take the field, fans witness world class athletes in their element. The players are locked in, ready for battle and supremely focused on the task at hand.
But what happens in the moments before running through the tunnel? When the cameras are off and the lights aren't quite as bright? With an assist from Microsoft, some 12s were able to answer those questions before Seattle's Week 8 win at Lumen Field.
Using Microsoft Teams for a video call, cancer survivors were treated to the first Pregame Huddle of the 2021 season. Cancer survivors were specifically chosen for the event because Sunday was the Crucial Catch Game, which promotes prevention and early detection of cancer.
At the Pregame Huddle on Sunday, Seahawks.com reporter Jackie Montgomery was just outside the locker room prior to the game. As players went out for warm-ups, many stopped by to chat with the crowd on Microsoft Teams thanks to a Surface Hub located at the end of the tunnel.
Cheryl Liberty-Turner, an ovarian cancer survivor who is currently undergoing chemotherapy at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, was among the Seahawks fans on the video call.
She has a number of favorite players, but Russell Wilson stands out for her right now as he recovers from a finger injury. Wilson took a detour on his way to the locker room before the game to chat with Cheryl and the group.
"It was awesome," Cheryl explained. "What did it for me was being able to talk to Russell Wilson. He called me by my name, which was really cool."
"I know you guys have gone through so much," Wilson said over the Microsoft Teams call before shouting out people by name. "... I'm rooting for you all."
Tyler Lockett, Carlos Dunlap, Colby Parkinson, DJ Reed and Tre Brown were among the other players to stop by and chat. The returners group -- DeeJay Dallas, Freddie Swain and Travis Homer -- even held their official huddle with all the fans able to listen in and cheer them on. General manager John Schneider also made time for the group.
Cheryl was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in August of 2020. For her entire life, she's been vigilant about her health -- getting early examinations and precautionary screenings because breast cancer runs in her family. Her form of ovarian cancer was detected early by process of elimination, where medical professionals were looking at a completely separate test.
Luckily, Cheryl's cancer was treatable with chemotherapy and, as she explained, "treatment leads to survival." With stage three cancer, Cheryl underwent heavy duty chemo after her initial diagnosis. Her cancer is chronic, so she recently began another round of treatment at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health -- all while staying upbeat and positive. She credits her mindset to her supportive husband, family and friends.
"It's so important to have those early tests," Cheryl said. "So important. It's a life-saver. It saved my life.
"My treatment this time, I hate to use the word… a breeze. But in comparison to frontline treatment, this is the ultimate treatment. It's working against the disease, yet maintaining the highest quality of life."
For Cheryl, who has been a Seahawks fan since our first season in 1976, it was especially cool to combine football with the greater message about early cancer detection and treatment. Her family has been season ticket holders for decades.
"I know how active (the Seahawks) are in the community, particularly with people who are struggling with health issues," Cheryl said. "Not only adults, but children especially. To be able to have them stop and visit (over the video call) just brings it all together because I'm one of those people now."
While Cheryl and the group waited for current players to visit the call, everyone got a special surprise when Seahawks Legend Luke Willson joined from his home. Willson, who still resides in Washington, answered all sorts of random questions -- from his favorite cereal to his best Super Bowl memories. He spent nearly an hour on the call, and the fans had a perfect view of his flowing hair thanks to Microsoft Teams.
The Seahawks and Microsoft began hosting Pregame Huddles last season when 12s were unable to attend games due to COVID-19, and they will continue for three more home games in 2021. Fans who attend the event will always have a tie-in with the game, similar to this week's Crucial Catch Game or a Salute to Service Game.
"I was honored to be invited," Cheryl said. "I was actually having treatment when they asked me if I would be interested and I just started to cry. I was just honored to be invited to something so personal in my hometown."
Thanks to a technology assist from Microsoft, 12s fighting cancer were able to chat with Seahawks players in the tunnel before they won their Crucial Catch game vs. the Jaguars on October 31, 2021 at Lumen Field.