Ex-Ben­gal Still hon­ored by NFLPA, can­cer cen­ter

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY CLIN­TON YATES clin­ton.yates@wash­post.com

In the heart of the Ge­orge­town Univer­sity Lom­bardi Com­pre­hen­sive Can­cer Cen­ter, beakers, binders and bot­tles line the walls of room E316. On a re­frig­er­a­tor hang two lab coats, one for Devon Still, the former Cincin­nati Ben­gals de­fen­sive tackle, and one for DeMau­rice Smith, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. This is where Jef­frey Toret­sky, a pe­di­atric on­col­o­gist who con­ducts re­search on Ewing’s sar­coma, a form of bone can­cer most of­ten found in chil­dren, does his work.

On Fri­day, he was there to talk with Still and Smith about his re­search. They went through a quick les­son on how to work with can­cer­ous cells. They looked through mi­cro­scopes and dis­cussed strains, mu­ta­tions and ge­netic fin­ger­print­ing.

“I try to take my down time and do as much re­search on can­cer as pos­si­ble and watch dif­fer­ent doc­u­men­taries to show how sci­en­tists re­search dif­fer­ent can­cers,” said Still, 26, whose daugh­ter, Leah, was di­ag­nosed with can­cer in Septem­ber 2014. “It’s com­ing to places like this. It lets me know that go­ing pub­lic with my daugh­ter’s story is worth it be­cause we are able to raise the re­search dol­lars that th­ese sci­en­tists need to con­tinue to do their re­search to try to find a cure for dif­fer­ent can­cers.”

When he went pub­lic, the coun­try quickly be­came en­am­ored with Leah’s story. The hash­tag #LeahStrong grew in pop­u­lar­ity as fol­low­ers and fans be­gan to show sup­port for the 5year-old, who was di­ag­nosed with neu­rob­las­toma. Now, with Leah’s can­cer in re­mis­sion, Devon was hon­ored by the cen­ter and the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion at the 29th An­nual Lom­bardi Gala on Satur­day in D.C.

Devon’s ex­pe­ri­ence has been hum­bling in more ways than one. He didn’t know what to ex­pect when the news first came out. “It just shows how many good peo­ple are out there and will­ing to help. You know, you see a lot of things in the news that’s bad, and you see a lot of things that di­vide peo­ple, but when I went pub­lic with my daugh­ter’s story, you saw the whole coun­try come to­gether be­cause ev­ery­body’s touched by kids who re­ally are not get­ting a fair chance at life and not get­ting a fair chance to ex­pe­ri­ence child­hood,” he said. “So to see the NFL come to­gether and al­low us to use that plat­form to con­tinue to get my daugh­ter’s story out there so that more aware­ness is be­ing raised, it meant a lot to us.”

Be­fore they left, Toret­sky had a gift for Still: an­other lab coat, this one em­bla­zoned with Leah’s name.

“It might be a nice lit­tle Hal­loween cos­tume,” he said with a smile.

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