Survivor Spotlight featuring Mandisa Berry

10.19.2013 / Blog Posts Breast Cancer Awareness

During the month of October --  in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” initiative -- we are delighted to introduce a blog series spotlighting breast cancer survivors on This Breast Cancer Survivor Spotlight Series will share the inspiring stories of these extraordinary women and special WOW members with the Redskins community while continuing to raise breast cancer awareness and educate women about the importance of annual screenings.

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Our next special WOW survivor spotlight features Mandisa Berry, 39, an attorney from Silver Spring, Maryland. Berry was diagnosed in March of this year with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ -- the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct), had a mastectomy in May and so far is cancer-free.

How long have you been a Redskins fan?
Mandisa Berry: My dad was born and raised in DC and has always been a fan of the Redskins. I grew up being a fan and watching the games with him.

What is your favorite Redskins memory?
Mandisa Berry: Watching games with my Dad when I was younger because he’s very vocal. It was just fun. He’s still very vocal. Watching the games with him was something he and I could do together.

What is your game day ritual or superstition?
Mandisa Berry: I do wear the same shirt every game day. It’s something I started recently because they tend to win when I wear it.

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Who was your support system?
Mandisa Berry: My dad has been very supportive and he’s been taking me everywhere I’ve needed to go. My aunts (my mother’s sisters there are two of them in the area) they have been here for me making sure I have food to eat, that I get to my doctors’ appointments, things like that. And my sorority sisters. When I was home after the mastectomy for six weeks they came by, they visited. When I was able to go out, they would come drive me around just to make sure I’m getting out, making sure I have a connection to the outside.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before your diagnosis?
Mandisa Berry: I didn’t know that much about breast cancer. I didn’t know too much about getting it at such a young age. I always thought about breast cancer more as something older women get. I wish I had had more information about early detection. I had never had a mammogram because they don’t start until you’re 40 so I had never had one. It was just something I never thought could happen to me. Maybe if I had known more about it, probably asked a little bit more about my family history maybe I would have gotten that done earlier. That’s how it was actually detected was through a mammogram.

What have you learned about yourself from your experience?
Mandisa Berry: I’ve learned that I’m a lot stronger than I thought. Because when I first got the diagnosis, it was first “Why me?” and now I’m not hiding behind it. It is still all fresh and new but I feel a lot stronger. I feel like I can do a lot of things, beginning this weekend for instance. Something that I’ve always wanted to do was go to a Redskins-Cowboys game in Dallas but it’s something I’ve been putting off for a while. Now I feel a lot more free to go do things and I can go ahead and just live my life.

If there’s one thing you would share with women reading this story, what would it be?
Mandisa Berry: Make sure you go see your healthcare professional. Make sure you stay on top of your health. Pay attention to your body. Because that was really how I found it. I didn’t have a lump. I actually had bleeding. It was something that I could have ignored but I decided to go get it checked out and that’s how I found out that I had breast cancer.

How did the Redskins and/or the Redskins fan community impact your journey?
Mandisa Berry: I’ve always been a fan of football and it just brightens my day. To be able to do this, to go to the games, just to see it on tv, it just makes me happy. And then with breast cancer awareness coming up, I can say that when I got my diagnosis before the mastectomy I was a little more quiet about it, I didn’t tell a lot of people. Now I feel more open about it, I’m able to talk to people about it. At the game on Sunday [at Cowboys Stadium], I wore my Redskins breast cancer awareness shirt and am very proud to wear this and say that I am a survivor.

Amanda Rykoff is a New York City-based sports writer. She’s a proud Penn alum, recovering attorney, devoted aunt, and voracious consumer of media. She has contributed to, The Outside Corner, ONE World Sports, Sports On Earth, The Football Girl and other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter (@amandarykoff).

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