There is an old, wise saying that goes, “Live everyday like it is your last because you never know if it will be,” and unfortunately that phrase resonates with everyone — young, old or in-between. Matthew Stafford, the quarterback for the Detroit Lions, and his wife Kelly know the importance of living true to that statement each and every day.
Thursday, Oct. 17, marks six months since Kelly Stafford underwent surgery to remove a non-cancerous brain tumor, a 10-hour surgery in which her husband and three little children patiently sat in the waiting room in hopes to talk to their wife and mom again. Instead of Matthew Stafford being under center, in control of the game, on the grandest stage in front of thousands of screaming football fans, he was in unfamiliar and terrifying territory. There was no chance to audible in this situation, no way to scramble out of disaster, and a last second Hail Mary couldn’t even save the day — this was real life.
Although the diagnosis of the acoustic neuroma was not life threatening if taken care of, the news halted the Stafford’s lives instantly. Kelly Stafford, only 29 when she received the diagnosis, couldn’t have imagined this being a part of her story, but is it ever possible to prepare for news like this? She is the mother of beautiful girls, and her husband is a quarterback in the NFL. Everything seemed like it was perfect — until it wasn’t.
Naturally, even though the tumor was not life threatening, fear crept into the back of Kelly Stafford’s mind. She released a statement after the procedure that her biggest fear going into the surgery was not coming out, saying, “What if this thing gets taken out and something goes wrong? What if something happens before that? My biggest fear is not being here, and not being here to raise my girls.”
With a 50% chance that she could lose her hearing and a potential for partial loss of facial function, Kelly decided that she needed to attack this situation just as her husband attacks football: head on and as positively as possible. That positivity is exactly what allowed her to be where she is today. Just months post-operation, Kelly is an inspiration to many as she posts high intensity workout videos on her social media accounts — defying all odds and doing it with style
In a situation of despair, her foundation was not shaken, and she leaned into Detroit as her support system. Now she lives stronger than ever to tell her story, and inspire others to take advantage of the time they have on Earth, because she knows first-hand what it feels like for the future to be unclear.
We hear these inspirational stories about triumph all of the time, with Pennsylvania-native NFL player James Conner being one of the most well-known. Being diagnosed with cancer during his time as the star running back for the Pittsburgh Panthers football team, Conner never gave up on his dreams of making it to the NFL.
After 12 rounds of chemotherapy, he received the news he was cancer free, and the following season he was back in the football huddle. In 2017, his amazing story continued when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and was able to play for the city that stood behind him during his whole battle with cancer. If that story doesn’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories that don’t have a miraculous ending. Some people are served with much more difficult pills to swallow. Sometimes, there is no light at the end of the tunnel to work toward, and that is when the rubber truly hits the road, and you are faced with what could be the toughest situation you will ever make: what do I want to make of my life while I still have the opportunity to?
As somber as it is, too many people and families face this situation on a daily basis. Good people are taken from this Earth too early, with no warning. It is unfair, but it is reality. These people, the people who have the impossible battles, are the ones that have the best outlooks on life.
Stuart Scott, a well-known and beloved ESPN sportscaster and anchor who lost his battle to cancer in 2015, stood on the stage of the 2014 ESPY Awards as he accepted the Jimmy V Award for bravery. He brought each and every person in the audience at home to tears with his heart felt acceptance speech. Knowing that his time on Earth was near the end, he looked to inspire those who may walk in his shoes one day saying, “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer, you beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.” He ended his speech in the most “Stuart Scott” like way, inviting his two daughters up on stage for a warm embrace. When he passed away a year later, millions mourned the loss of this beloved man.
Kelly Stafford, James Conner and Stuart Scott, although we don’t know them on a personal level, can all be used as role models for the way life should be lived. Too often do we find ourselves in situations where we could have done something different — we could have made that phone call or we could have tried harder.
The great thing about life is that it is never too late to start living your best life, because at the end of the day, we are all fortunate for each and every day we have on this Earth. When your time has come to an end, you want to be remembered for the impact you have made on people’s lives, being your true authentic self. The materialistic things don’t matter. Live for the little things, say “I love you” way too much and take advantage of the life you were given — it’s a blessing in disguise.