Survivor Spotlight featuring Mary Lou Simpson

11.13.2013 / Blog Posts Breast Cancer Awareness

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Our next special WOW survivor spotlight features Mary Lou Simpson, a 46-year old mother of two from Woodbridge, Virginia whose favorite all-time Redskins player is Darrell Green. Simpson, a fan of the team for over 20 years, was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in January 2009 and received her all-clear in October 2011. This month marks her two-year anniversary of being cancer-free.

What is your favorite Redskins memory?
Mary Lou Simpson: I have two. I have Darrell Green’s last game against Dallas and we won and I was there to see it. That was the best. I’m married to a Dallas fan and being there for that Monday night game to see them get their butts kicked was the greatest. And then another was opening day the year that Tim McGraw played halftime -- September 27, 2004. We played against Dallas and McGraw did the halftime show and Dale Junior [NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr.] was there as well.

What is your game day ritual or superstition?
Mary Lou Simpson: I always wear my either my Theismann or Darrell Green jersey. I have to be in my Redskins jersey. I don’t know why just those two but those are the only two I wear every game day.

Who was your support system and how did they support you?
Mary Lou Simpson: My husband was my biggest supporter as well as my sister. My husband and my sister went to every chemo appointment with me. We had a ritual with chemo -- we’d stop and get snacks for chemo. After chemo, he would take me to Burger King so I could get a hamburger and french fries and then he would let me come home and sleep. If it wasn’t for him and my sister I really don’t think I could have gone through it as well as I did.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before your diagnosis?
Mary Lou Simpson: Be diligent with their doctor especially if there’s a history in the family due to the fact that mammograms don’t always pick it up. My mother is a survivor and when I went out to Denver for my mother’s surgery, I told my doctor that I wanted my mammograms as soon as I came back. My doctor said, “I don’t think the insurance is going to cover it” and I said, “I don’t care.” I would like especially women to push their doctors, no matter how old they are, to have their screenings done. I did mine every year and mine wasn’t found until ten years later. The only reason why is because there was a change in the physical appearance of my breast. If I could have had an MRI, I would have gotten the MRI.

How was your cancer discovered?
Mary Lou Simpson: Around Christmas of 2008, I noticed that my nipple was starting to invert and I thought, “This is kind of weird.” I didn’t think anything of it after that but every January I’m very faithful in going to get my pap smears and mammograms and all that preventative stuff done. When I went went into my gynecologist, he saw it as well and that’s when he ordered a different set of tests as well as a sonogram. At the time they found it, it was Stage 3.

What have you learned about yourself from your experience?

Mary Lou Simpson:  I’m a lot stronger than I thought. I learned that I don’t take life for granted anymore because it can be taken away in an instant. I’ve also learned to have a little bit more understanding of someone going through cancer.

How did the Redskins and/or the Redskins fan community impact your journey?
Mary Lou Simpson: It gave me an opportunity to just break away to where I can sit and I can watch my guys play. I love the month of October. I look so forward to the month of October when all the teams go pink. I love it. It is my favorite time of the year. I will always have my jerseys on for my game and I will always have something pink. My husband went out and bought me a pair of Crocs and I even went out and got the Redskins on my Crocs as well as the breast cancer ribbon on my Crocs and I wear them faithfully.

If there’s one thing you would share with other Women’s Club members or women reading this story, what would it be?
Mary Lou Simpson:  Enjoy life and just because you live with this awful disease, have fun. I know that’s really hard to say but that’s really the only way that you can make it through this difficult time. Go along with the jokes. Do jokes yourself. My mother thought I was morbid when I wanted the t-shirt that said, “Hell yeah they’re fake. The real ones tried to kill me.” Oh yeah, I’m proud of it. I have goofy t-shirts. I’ve got “Bikers for boobies” I’ve got a t-shirt that has pink handprints where the boobs should be, and I’m not afraid to wear them. But laugh and enjoy it. Enjoy life.

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.

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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