Rhonda VanSickle, who has been diagnosed with stage-four breast and bone cancer was granted a wish that she will never forget. The Missouri mother and her sons were guests of the Buccaneers Wednesday and given a tour of the facility and a chance to meet her favorite player, Josh Freeman.
Sometimes life has a way of calling an audible. Just when everything appears to be going as planned, something happens that brings the things that matter in to focus. For Missouri Physical Education teacher Rhonda VanSickle, that gameplan switch came in the form of a life and death battle with stage-four breast and bone cancer.
Wednesday the Buccaneers, in conjunction with the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation, granted a wish that VanSickle and her three sons, Alex, Austin and Blake will never forget.
“Just look at them,” VanSickle said glancing towards her three sons. “They’re amazed to see what it’s like in the life of a pro ball player. It’s just amazing to make a wish like this. The Bucs' organization has been so kind to us and we’re really excited. This is a good memory for my boys.”
VanSickle talked about the experience of touring the facility as practice was ending Wednesday.
“Oh my gosh, it is pristine; it is unbelievable,” VanSickle said. “The detail of everything at One Buc Place, It’s just amazing, the things that they’ve put into this to make it special. We’re really excited.
“We got to go back in the locker rooms and see the handsome Mr. Barber’s locker that’s very clean and organized. Then we got to see Josh Freeman’s and it’s not so organized but it’s very, very impressive. I got to put my shoes next to some of the players and it’s just once in a lifetime to see what they do.
VanSickle’s smile and bright eyes dimmed just a little as she recalled when her life changed forever.
“The doctors discovered the cancer in my bones first, and they knew it was coming from somewhere,” VanSickle said. “Then they discovered the tumor in my breast.
“I’ve been on a clinic trial for about a year and a half and it went really well. The cancer hasn’t spread, but then it stopped working. Like some treatments, it stops working. They’re trying a new treatment, but most people with (my type of) breast cancer only have a five-year life sentence. So with that, I have to know that I’m doing all I can and using that time wisely to make those memories for my boys. The Jack and Jill Foundation has done that for us. And if it wasn’t for people like the Bucs, we would never have that opportunity to do that.
“So we just hope that it will help other people. And we really want people to be aware of breast cancer and all the signs to make sure that they have the mammograms yearly to keep on top of it. And also, like my situation, it was just a pain in my bone and to really go to the doctor and get check-ups and make sure if you know something’s not right – to get it checked.”
General manager Mark Dominik was happy to be spend a few minutes with the family Wednesday.
“I had a chance to sit down and talk to her and her kids,” Dominik said. “You know there’s a connection through Kansas City through Missouri. Certainly that they’re Jayhawk fans is just going to help a little bit. It’s a special day today. They obviously had a chance to meet some of the players and talk to them a little bit.”
In the stressful world of professional football – or even just daily family life – cancer tends to put things in proper perspective Dominik said.
“I think perspective is a perfect word about it. And keep your mind right. I just enjoy meeting new people and having a chance to talk to them. That’s kind of who we want to be as an organization... is somebody that, when somebody has a ‘make a wish’ we want to find a way to grant it. Today was a great day, and a great opportunity to do that.”
Later, as a slight misting rain was falling across the team's facility, VanSickle was all smiles again as she and her sons had the chance to step onto the field and meet Josh Freeman.
It’s amazing, very amazing,” Van Sickle. “I’m very happy my boys got to experience this. So thank you very much (to the Buccaneers) for everything that’s happened so far.”
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