Much like a well-executed play on the gridiron, great obstacles in life are hard to overcome alone. That was the thinking behind the annual All-Star Survivor Celebration, now in its sixth year today at Redskins Park.
The event is hosted by Mrs. Tanya Snyder with the Redskins Charitable Foundation and Redskins great Chris Cooley, and gathers 20 Washington, D.C.-area women currently battling and surviving breast cancer to unite for a day of pampering, support and celebration.
“This is about having a great day, and I’m telling you, we’ve got the people in this room to make it happen.”
She was referring to the record turnout of Redskins players and their wives, with
Veteran outside linebacker Darryl Tapp is in his first season with the team and made the All-Star Survivor Celebration his second Tuesday event hosted by the Redskins Charitable Foundation.
Tapp was active in the Seattle area and Philadelphia when he played there, but for the Portsmouth, Va.-native, today’s experience was “unbelievable.”
“I’ve had so much support from this community, from when I was a little kid up until now,” he said. “It’s a joy to play with the Redskins emblem on my helmet and give back to the fans in this community.
“It’s an awesome event and there’s so many strong women in here. They’re going through a lot in a lot of difficult situations. It’s our job to put a smile on their faces and make them feel good today.”
Like every person in the room, Tapp’s family has been affected by breast cancer, with the mother of his brother’s wife receiving a double-mastectomy after diagnosis a few years ago.
“She’s doing very well now, but it’s something that you have to be aware of,” he said. “I’m married, I have my wife with me today. I have a little daughter now and you never know what life’s going to throw at you.
“These are all someone’s wives and daughters and we just want to brighten their days. We’re here to do anything we can to bring awareness to the cause.”
Cycling through the stations set up around Redskins Park, the All-Star Survivors were treated to a personal makeup consultation, massage therapy and a private tour of Redskins Park.
Each lady also went home with a new pair of jeans from Gap Inc., wigs, scarves, makeup and a custom-made Redskins jersey.
As a parting gift, the ladies were surprised with tickets to the Redskins Breast Cancer Awareness Game on Sunday vs. Chicago, where they will create the fan tunnel for player introductions.
The outpouring of generosity from the Redskins Charitable Foundation and American Cancer Society was overwhelming for Ruth and Wanda Sesker of Upper Marlboro, Md., not far from FedExField.
All-Star Survivors were encouraged to bring their support companions, and many brought their daughters or moms. But only the Seskers were there as a mother-daughter team, where both were in treatment for breast cancer at the same time.
Thirty years ago, Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer, choosing a single mastectomy to remove the cancer. After months of treatment, she was eventually declared cancer-free.
Fast-forward to April, 2013, and Wanda found a mass during a self-examination. After several days of mental processing, she told her mom, who encouraged her to go seek treatment right away. It was cancer.
Two weeks later, Ruth was diagnosed with her second case of breast cancer, more than 30 years removed from her initial case. Instantly, the two were each other’s best support group.
“It’s been an experience, but I can’t say it’s been a bad experience,” Wanda said. “I haven’t been sick a day. The doctor gives you a three-page list of side effects from the treatment, and the other side effect I’ve had is the loss of hair.
“It’s been a renewing experience, because it makes you look at life differently in every single way,” she said. “We’re supporting each other, going to treatment with each other—it’s something that’s very hard to explain. Not many people go through this experience with their mother.”
Thirty years ago, Ruth didn’t lose her hair and never missed a day of work. Through the first five months of her current treatment, she has lost hair, but only took time off to come to today’s event at Redskins Park.
“This has been a fantastic day, a wonderful moment for us,” Ruth said. “The players are just people. They’re just normal, everyday guys, and it’s just been fantastic.”
This event is one of several initiatives the Washington Redskins and its players will embark upon during the month of October in support of the NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.