Jerome Felton isn't big on returning phone calls, especially when he's at training camp. So when his older sister Maike (pronounced MY-kah) called a couple of times in the summer of 2012, Felton figured he'd get back to her when he had more time. When he read the text message that soon followed he knew he had better call right away.
'I have something important to talk to you about,' was how the text read.
Once on the phone Felton's sister explained to him that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis didn't make sense to Felton knowing his sister was just 32-years old.
"Obviously it was a shock to me," Felton said. "My sister and I are real close and it shook me up a little bit. She calmed me down and told me she didn't want me to worry about it."
The good news was the doctors felt they had detected it early enough to successfully treat it. Still, Maike Bachmann would go through the rigors of chemotherapy and radiation.
"She went through treatment for about eight months or so," Felton said. "It was a tough process for her, throwing up from the treatment and things. I never really had a doubt that she would get through it. It was never a situation where we thought she wouldn't be able to overcome it."
Felton offered support where he could. He would call frequently to check in. His sister however, is pretty independent.
"She knew she had my support," he said. "We've always been close. She knows that anything I could've done then or do now I would drop everything to do it. She puts others before herself too much. She won't take my help with anything. She's just tough and that's how she was brought up. That's why I was pretty confident the whole time that she'd be able to get through it and overcome it."
A veterinarian by trade, Maike leaned on some of her animal companions to successfully win her cancer battle.
"She worked right through her treatment regimen," said Felton. "She's a big animal lover. She has like 10 dogs. I'm always on her because she's always adopting another dog or a homeless dog. She can't say no, but that's one thing that helped her in her cancer battle was her animals."
Diagnosed in the summer of 2012, Bachmann was fortunately in remission by the following spring, an eight-month ordeal.
"She told me she'd fight it and get through it and she did, but she still takes medicine," said Felton. "Obviously it's still an ongoing thing, but she's in remission and that's the most important thing. I think she has to take medication for the rest of her life. Now more than ever I never take her for granted."
Felton now proudly supports Breast Cancer Awareness month every October in concert with the NFL's efforts. He'll be wearing pink game gloves to help raise awareness all month long.
"Obviously it's one of those things that you never think it could happen to you. It's going to affect somebody you know whether it's your immediate family or a friend," he said. "It's always been an important cause and I've always enjoyed wearing the pink to support it and bring attention to it because we can have an impact. It's more personal now and the more I can do the better."
The Buffalo Bills and the ECMC Foundation along with the American Cancer Society will come together to host the 10th annual Billieve event in downtown Buffalo on Friday, October 2 as part of the NFL's month-long initiative to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. The event will be held in front of (716) Food and Sport (on Scott Street) and will feature a free outdoor concert with award-winning Black River Entertainment recording artist Craig Morgan. Proceeds from the event will benefit the ECMC Mobile Mammography Coach; the only unit of its kind in Western New York.