As heartbreaking as Cincinnati’s opening-day loss to the Chargers was on Sunday, at the end of the day it’s still only football. And it pales in comparison to what Gavin Schaffer is going through.
Schaffer, the son of Joe Mixon’s agent, Peter Schaffer, was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that develops in the lymphatic system from cells known as lymphocytes. The disease affects over 8,500 Americans every year, and is most common in people between the ages of 15 and 40. The five-year survival rate for these patients is about 86 percent.
In a show of support for Gavin, who is a junior at Denver South High School in Denver, Colorado, Mixon wore a ribbon on the back of his helmet Sunday that featured lacrosse sticks. Gavin was added to his school’s varsity lacrosse team in May of last year, and has continued playing despite the diagnosis.
#Bengals RB Joe Mixon is wearing a ribbon on his helmet today in honor of Gavin Schaffer, the son of his his agent Peter. Gavin is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma and doing well enough to continue playing lacrosse. Hence the sticks in the logo. pic.twitter.com/oR5GOBSalN— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) September 13, 2020
“I know this young guy,” said Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network. “He is going to give this Hodgkin’s lymphoma everything it has coming for him.”
Joe Thomas, the former all-world offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns and current NFL Network commentator, agreed.
“Gavin Schaffer getting ready to crush this cancer and come out better and stronger on the backside,” Thomas said.
Mixon’s tribute, however, is probably in violation of the NFL’s strict uniform policies and may well result in a substantial fine. According to Rule 5, Section 4, Article 1 of the 2020 NFL rule book, “all visible items worn on gameday by players must be issued by the club or the League, or, if from outside sources, must have approval in advance by the League office.” But it would be worth it.
Gavin’s diagnosis comes on the heels of a successful battle by Schaffer’s daughter, Lilian, who fought the same disease while getting support from former Bengals cornerback Adam Jones.
In 2018, doctors discovered a football-sized tumor in Lilian’s chest. She was immediately admitted to Children’s Hospital Colorado to begin treatments, which included surgeries, 70 chemotherapy sessions, and 14 rounds of radiation.
With the help of her parents and friends, her love for horses, and an unlikely riding companion in Jones, who dedicated his 2018 season to Lilian, and she made it through.
“Adam gives 110 percent effort no matter what in his sport, and I try to do the same in mine,” Lilian said. “It made me proud that Adam dedicated his season to my fight. Not only did I feel supported, but not many other teenagers can say that a professional athlete looks up to them.”
Today, Lilian is cancer-free and plans to attend college as she resumes the life of a normal teenager.
Sunday, another Cincinnati standout stepped up to champion the cause of a young person who is bravely battling to defeat a disease that has taken the life of so many. But Gavin knows that it is a battle his sister is already winning.
“Gavin will, too,” Garafolo said. “Good luck to Gavin and continued good luck to Lilian. She’s got her three-month checkup. Everything’s been great for her so far.”