Peyton Manning did something very special for a woman diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.
Kari Barnett Bollig wrote Peyton a letter earlier this year, one of many she wrote to people who inspired her or were close to her. After being diagnosed with stage II breast cancer at the age of 40 in 2011, Kari underwent a lumpectomy, radiation, and chemo. She thought she was in the clear — but in 2013, after going to the doctor for pain in her back, she learned that tumors were growing all over her spine. She had stage IV breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones and lungs. What makes this tragic situation even more heartbreaking is that her husband Ed had lost his first wife to breast cancer years earlier.
Since her terminal cancer diagnosis, Kari has had 52 radiation treatments and gets chemo every three weeks to slow the cancer’s progression. Her bones are now so fragile that doctors worry a hard bump could break her hip or crack her spine. She could live for many years longer, or for only a few months.
“I have followed Peyton Manning forever, especially being an Indiana girl,” Kari said. “I just thought, ‘Well shoot. I’m going to write him a letter and tell him how much he inspires me, not just because he’s a football player, but for what he does off the field.’ It was very personal. It was very heartfelt and I never thought anything of it other than I wrote it and sent it. I didn’t even know he would get it.”
But he did get it. And he read it. And he invited Kari and her husband Ed out to Denver for a weekend. Kari and Ed toured Mile High Stadium, watched the Broncos get their team photos taken, took in a practice, and, of course, caught the Broncos vs. Ravens game on Sunday — including sideline passes prior to the game.
“He walked right over after he got his picture taken,” Kari said of Peyton. “It was so sweet because he shakes my hand and says, ‘I’m Peyton Manning.’ It was cute. It was kind of like, ‘I know who you are, Peyton.'”
Peyton talked with Kari and her husband Ed for ten minutes, then gave her a hug and told her, “Keep fighting, Kari. I’ll be praying for you.”
Our thoughts are with you, Kari. <3