Breast cancer is personal to Lions receiver Peacock

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Each October, NFL players wear varying amounts of pink in support for breast cancer awareness month.

Andrew Peacock, a wide receiver on the Lions practice squad, is as aware as anyone the toll breast cancer can take on a woman — and a family. His mother, Bridgette, has had the disease twice — and beat it both times.

So when the Lions had their "A Crucial Catch Day" — a promotion for annual screenings — at Ford Field in Week 5, Peacock stood on the sideline with a pink skullcap and cleats with his mom in mind.

"We just play a sport, but for them, they're fighting for their life," he said. "If we can do something that puts a smile on their face like this pink thing, I would do it every month."

Peacock's mother, 51, was first diagnosed when he was in ninth grade. She caught it early, but it terrified the teenage Peacock.

"The first time was the hardest," he said. "I'd heard of breast cancer, and I only heard breast cancer and death. So, I immediately almost thought she wasn't going to make it."

Peacock watched his mother undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy. He saw he lose her hair and become weaker, saying the experience was especially tough as he made his transition to high school.

"It was definitely a fight," he said. "But just to see her come out on the other side and see her survive from it was the best thing for me."

But the cancer returned when Peacock was a sophomore at Appalachian State.

He wanted to go home to be with his mother, but she told him to remain focused on his classes. He stayed, and decided to make the 2½-hour drive on weekends from Boone, N.C. to Durham when he could.

"She's always wanted the best for me," he said. "She never wanted me to put my dreams or anything on hold for her being sick, but I supported her in every way I could from App."

Because his mother already had beaten cancer once, Peacock said he and his family were better prepared the second time. He said he leaned on his father and older brother for support, remaining confident she could beat it again.

"We all knew my mom was strong and she would fight through it, but we just had to be that support system for her," he said. "Usually she is a very strong individual in our family that supports everybody, but it was our turn to turn it all on her, put all the attention on her and help her.

"And that's what we did."

Now, as Peacock has embarked on his NFL career, he's always thinking about his mother. On Oct. 1, he tweeted October was his favorite month because he can honor "the strongest woman I know."

He knows he can play the game — undrafted out of Appalachian State, the 5-foot-10 Peacock set the school mark for career receptions with 208 — and landed a spot on the practice squad.

Soon, he hopes to join the 53-man roster.

Until then, he'll be decked out in pink the rest of October to show support for his mother and all breast cancer patients.

Saints at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Saints 2-3, Lions 4-2

Line: Lions by 3

Series: Saints lead 12-9-1 (New Orleans 45-28, Jan. 7, 2012)