FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Outside linebacker Matt Judon has quickly won the love of New England Patriots fans with an exemplary performance and red sleeves that stand out as his game. But gearing up for a big home game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS), Judon is all about the pink.
The Patriots will highlight those of the NFL “Crucial catch“Mission to fight cancer through early detection and risk reduction. The mission hits close to Judon’s heart after his mother, Pieretta Hairston, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020.
“My mom means the world to me. When we wear those colors, or say ‘real men wear pink’, it’s not just to put on a show. Many of our family members, or people we know and love, passed that’s why. It’s very real, “Judon said Tuesday. “Raising awareness about the situation and also empowering people who are going through it means a lot.”
Fortunately for Pieretta, she’s not going through the hardest parts anymore. He received the news that he was in remission about four months ago, which was news he had prayed for since receiving the initial diagnosis that doctors at the University of Michigan Hospital told him was detected between Stage 1 and 2.
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The first thing Pieretta did was take a picture of the paperwork and text her 10 children.
“To ring that bell on my last day of treatment, I know a lot of people don’t show up because they find it late. But finding it early helped me a lot,” he said. “They told me the type I had was very aggressive, moving fast and could have moved into my chest, throat and brain area. Every day I wake up I am thankful that I still have my life.”
For Judon, who has already logged 6.5 sacks this season, talking about Pieretta shows a compassionate side that contrasts with his ultra-physical, high-intensity style of play.
“I can talk for hours about my mother and tell story after story about the amazing person she is,” he said. “So she can still be here after going through that, just never [know]; life is so short. Having said that, I am grateful and blessed to be able to call my mom. Or when I see her, I can still hold her and kiss her. She just tells me she’s proud of me, and that means everything. “
It means everything to Pieretta that Judon wears pink on Sunday, possibly gloves or cleats, along with those sharp red sleeves.
“I’m always the background person, but it’s an honor to see him wear pink for me. Just being here, among the land of the living, is a total blessing,” he said.
A dark day
Judon, 29, was preparing for his fifth and final season with the Baltimore Ravens when he learned of Pieretta’s diagnosis. Pieretta’s maternal instincts initially took over.
“I was more worried about my children than I was about myself. With Matt at the forefront, trying to keep him calm and not worrying much about me,” she said. “I knew I had to get over it, for me and for them.
“It was a dark day for me. I had to figure out how I was going to sit down and tell my kids what was going on. You have a lot of mixed feelings. One asks, ‘After everything I’ve been through, why me?’ I just started running. “
The timing of the diagnosis, on February 27, 2020, created additional challenges.
“The pandemic started in March, so I felt like I was in a pandemic within a pandemic. I knew it was a dangerous time. It was like a double life or death for me,” he said.
It put one of Judon’s core beliefs to the test: that life’s journey is enriched by personal connection and the quality of the people around you, because he couldn’t be by his mother’s side.
“When you get that diagnosis, it’s like ‘Let’s gather around this person and go see him.’ But in the pandemic, you have to stay away from that person to keep them safe, “he said.” I know that she was not the only person who received that diagnosis through COVID, and I sympathize with so many people who could not see their loved ones. dear ones for as long as it was. “
Pieretta received her last chemotherapy treatment in early July before undergoing surgery. Then came the radiation treatments, every day for a month.
Judon proudly points out that Pieretta didn’t miss a single appointment, no matter how sick or tired she was. And it was, often.
“The radiation was worse than the other treatments. I know how burn victims feel now,” he said. “It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life, and I had 10 children.”
It’s obvious where Judon, in his first year with the Patriots, gets the toughness that’s hard to miss on the football field. He also received something else from his mother that he is grateful for every day.
“He did a lot for his ten children. He raised us well, with manners, respect and dignity,” he said. “She instilled in each and every one of us that we are no less than the others. She always said, ‘Don’t tell me what that person can do, tell me what you can do.’
In addition to wearing pink on Sunday for his mother, Judon will also continue to wear jersey number 9, a change from the 99 he wore in Baltimore. He said he represents his brothers, whom he plays with every time he goes out on the field.
The bond between mother and child grows stronger
Pieretta attended the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins and was in Houston for Sunday’s win against the Houston Texans. Judon said he was so committed to catching up with her and many other family members that team buses started leaving the stadium without him.
“They had to stop and pick me up. I could get some tie downs, but it was worth it,” he said smiling.
Pieretta does not plan to attend Sunday’s game, but will be watching closely from home.
“I love him very much,” he said. “It was my first baby before I had my last four children; my first baby in six years. I spoiled it.”
The bond between mother and child was always strong, but it has never been stronger than now. It’s one of the reasons Judon signed on to become an ambassador for the American Cancer Society’s “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign, which engages influential male community leaders in the Society’s mission to eliminate breast cancer. .
Judon wore pink when he got to Sunday’s game in Houston. He will do it again on Sunday, when he hopes to see cancer survivors in the game against the Cowboys.
“I’m thankful that the NFL allows us to go out there and represent the people who can’t. And the people who can, we bring them out and show them a good time and give them excitement with the game,” he said. “Then just laugh and love with them, because joy mends the soul.”