Chiefs safety Eric Berry to undergo chemotherapy after diagnosis confirms Hodgkin's lymphoma

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Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, right, wearing an Eric Berry t-shirt, greets Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid prior to an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)


KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Chiefs safety Eric Berry has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease and will begin chemotherapy for what doctors called a "very treatable and potentially curable" form of cancer.

Berry had been undergoing tests at Emory University in Atlanta since an MRI exam nearly two weeks ago showed a mass on the right side of his chest. At the time, doctors were still uncertain whether the mass was cancerous, but further testing revealed the lymphoma.

Dr. Christopher Flowers, who directs the lymphoma program at Emory's Winship Cancer Institute, said Monday that Berry will undergo "standard chemotherapy approaches" to treat the disease. Flowers did not provide a timetable or prognosis for recovery.

"The goal of Mr. Berry's treatment is to cure his lymphoma and we are beginning that treatment now," Flowers said in a statement issued through the Chiefs.

Hodgkin's disease, also called Hodgkin's lymphoma, is a cancer of the immune system that only represents about 8 percent of all diagnosed lymphomas. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 9,000 people will be diagnosed with it in the United States this year.

The survival rate in 1960 was about 40 percent, but advancements in medicine combined with earlier detections have increased the survival rate to more than 80 percent.

"I want to thank the Emory University School of Medicine, along with Dr. Flowers and his team, for all of their hard work and effort in diagnosing and creating a plan for me to battle this thing," Berry said in a statement. "I will embrace this process and attack it the same way I do everything else in life. God has more than prepared me for it."

Hall of Fame hockey player Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with the same disease in 1993, at the height of his career. He underwent radiation and other treatment and missed about two months, and later took a leave of absence. But he ultimately returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins to finish his career.

Lemieux also founded the Mario Lemiuex Foundation, which funds medical research projects while supporting numerous organizations, including the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was also diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2008 and was successfully treated with chemotherapy. He was voted to his first All-Star game this past season.

Berry first began feeling discomfort in his chest during a loss in Oakland on Nov. 20. The pain persisted when he showed up at the team's training facility the following day, and he immediately went through a battery of tests that included an MRI exam and CT scan. The mass was discovered that night, and Berry informed his teammates a few days later before heading to Atlanta.

The Chiefs have lost both of their games since Berry was placed on the season-ending non-injury list, putting them in peril of missing the playoffs. Kansas City (7-6) has games remaining against the Raiders, Pittsburgh and San Diego, the latter two teams also in the playoff hunt.

Berry has received widespread support since the news of his plight became public.

The New York Jets tweeted Monday, "Our thoughts are with Eric Berry, his family & Chiefs Nation," while #berrystrong has been trending on Twitter.

Berry's alma mater, Tennessee, wore helmet stickers honoring him in a recent game, and the Chiefs designed a shirt that reads, "Be Bold Be Brave Be Berry." Arizona coach Bruce Arians wore one of the shirts before the Cardinals' game against the Chiefs, and they are being sold online and at Arrowhead Stadium with proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

"My family and I are very grateful for the amount of support we have received over the last couple of weeks," Berry said. "I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate all the words of encouragement, the blessings and well wishes."


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