By Kris Leonhardt
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers, Bellin Health and the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation kicked off their Packers vs. Cancer campaign on Sept. 19 at the Bellin Cancer Team facility in Green Bay.
Now in its seventh year of raising awareness of all cancers and raising funds for research and care, the program is getting assistance from Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon, who serves as spokesperson for this year’s campaign.
Nixon’s mom was diagnosed with cancer one year ago after a mobile screening.
“It was kind of tough for me just being so far from home and understanding what the process is to actually go through cancer and the steps it takes. And I really got a better understanding of what a normal person goes through on a daily basis and the obstacles they have to reach just to be happy every day, you know, and Mom was so strong and a great woman and it was really hard for me to focus on the season last year and do my job. [It was] just always in the back of my head.
“I was just trying to figure out how I was going to focus on the game and focus on my mom’s health care. She just told me ‘Don’t worry about me.’
“So, I witnessed my mom go through most of the stages in cancer, whether it was chemo — she lost all her hair, and I remember her FaceTiming me and she just asked me how she looked, and I told her she looks beautiful, you know? And just to see the smile on my mom’s face was everything for me.”
Packers Running Back Patrick Taylor joined Nixon visiting patients at the center, while Tucker Kraft and Luke Musgrave visited patients and families at the Children’s Wisconsin Milwaukee Hospital.
Bellin Health Cancer Patient Navigator Alli Mullen explained the importance of building a strong team around those diagnosed with cancer.
“When someone is newly diagnosed with cancer, it can be an overwhelming, frightening and confusing time,” she said.
“There are multiple doctor visits, new and unfamiliar terms to try and understand, financial and insurance questions, not to mention the stress of a suddenly uncertain future.
“As my title suggests, my job is to help the patient navigate each one of those pieces from being another set of ears in the exam room and trying to translate some of that medical terminology to expediting the coordination of various appointments and other aspects of an individual’s treatment. All while simultaneously keeping in mind that patient’s emotional and psychological well-being, my colleagues and I. There are six of us cancer navigators here at our Green Bay location, all with varying medical backgrounds. We’re there to be a direct point of contact for our patients, explaining the process of treatment and easing their way, whenever and however we can.
“And just like the Green Bay Packers were part of an incredible team, our team includes doctors, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, radiation therapists, dietitians, speech and physical therapists just to name a few. We even have a robust arts program, the Bellin Expressive Arts and Medicine, or BEAM, that brings the healing power of arts to our patients and families. We work together to combine these varying areas of expertise, harnessing the power of medical technology, as well as the power of empathy, to ease the way for patients and give them the best possible opportunity for successful outcomes.
This year’s campaign also features a new Packers vs. Cancer hat, with $5 from the sale of each hat going directly to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.
Named for the legendary Packers coach, the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation is dedicated to battling cancer by funding cancer research and “compassionate care.”
“Cancer is a disease that has impacted almost all of us and we can’t defeat it alone,” said Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation Board Member Aaron Hart. “That’s why our partnership with the Green Bay Packers and Bellin Health is so impactful. We are able to offer more support to cancer research and treatment programs when we come together as a team.”
The new Packers vs. Cancer hats are available at the Packer Pro Shop.