Philadelphia Eagles News

(On the left, Corinne with her mother, Bette. Jaime is with her Aunt Rita on the right.)

'It's not something I wish upon anyone'

Eagles Cheerleaders Corinne and Jaime share very personal stories about how cancer has been a part of their lives.

By Jillian Oddo

Something that makes your heart sink into your chest is hearing the word "cancer." Cancer carries such a negative connotation and affects millions of people every day. When you are younger, it is hard to really understand what cancer can do to a person, but as you learn more, it takes on a whole new meaning.

There is always hope that cancer won't come knocking on your door, but it has a mind of its own. Two Eagles Cheerleaders have grown up hearing the word "cancer" too often. Corinne Chun and Jaime Gialloreto were introduced to cancer at a young age, and it was difficult for them to realize what cancer entails.

"It takes on a different meaning for everybody. Throughout my life, I've been close to more and more people who have battled cancer. I now associate it with strength. All of the people I know who are battling or have battled cancer have shown an unwavering amount of strength within themselves." Jaime said. "I find it really admirable."

"My mom, she's lost pretty much her entire family to cancer. Having to see how it affected her and how it affected the rest of us is not something that I wish upon anyone else to go through," said Corinne.

The NFL has its Crucial Catch mission, which is to bring awareness to cancer. Every year, each NFL team has a Crucial Catch game to promote the fight against cancer through early detection. This year's Crucial Catch game for the Eagles is against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Throughout this game, the Eagles will not only raise awareness, but they will honor cancer survivors and those who are currently battling the disease. Corinne and Jaime will be using this game as a tribute to their loved ones who have dealt with cancer.

With multiple family members being diagnosed with different types of cancer, Corinne has witnessed the impact cancer has had on her grandmother, mother, aunt, and uncle. When the Aiea, Hawaii, native was just 4 years old, she saw lung cancer take away her grandmother, Dorothy Rudolph.

"The way that she talked and interacted, she was still my loving grandmother, but I could tell things were different. That was the first time I was introduced to cancer and what it was," Corinne said.

Corinne took a deep breath and became emotional as she looked down at a photo of her with her parents, grandfather, and aunt. The second person Corinne remembers putting up a fight was her Aunt Sandi Lyon, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Corinne was 10 at the time when Aunt Sandi fought for a couple of years, but she passed away at the age of 52.

Remembering her Aunt Sandi, Corinne mentioned how she was always cheerful, but the chemotherapy slowly started to take Sandi's smile away. "I got to see the process and see firsthand how cancer affected her life," Corinne recalled. "It changed her personality and what she did."

Considering how relevant cancer is on Corinne's mother's side of the family, Bette Chun (Corinne's mother) diligently went to the doctor's office and had regular screenings to make sure everything looked good ... but despite being extra cautious, cancer knocked on her family's door, again.

On Christmas Eve in 2014, Bette found out she had breast cancer at the age of 66. Corinne was 26 at the time and as she heard the news she broke down.

"I was just crying in my car and I called one of my best friends," Corinne continued. "I didn't know what to do because I've had all these family members pass away and now it's actually happening to my mother. I was afraid. What if the same thing happens to her that happened to them."

This news was a little too close for comfort for Corinne. Luckily for Bette, they caught the cancer early. Bette took extra precaution after seeing what her sister and mother went through. She decided to get a double mastectomy to nip cancer in the bud. Corinne was by her mother's side throughout the whole procedure. Bette is now a breast cancer survivor.

"She's healthy now; she's comfortable. She's proud of her scars and that makes me proud to be her daughter," Corinne added. "It was a lot that she had to go through. It was pretty crazy."

From watching what her mother endured, Corinne makes it a point to get into the doctor's office for yearly checkups. Corinne had her own scare back in 2019, when she discovered something unusual while doing a self-exam. Thankfully, after a mammogram, the doctors figured out it was not cancerous.

"It is important to always be aware of your body, how you feel, and how it looks. If anything is abnormal, it's better to get it checked and err on the side of caution, than to ignore it and hope it goes away," Corinne said.

Jaime's family has had their own relationship with cancer. Jaime's Great Aunt Rita has beat cancer twice, but over two weeks ago Rita received some bad news. The 81-year old will have to fight again after being diagnosed with leukemia. Ten years ago, Rita was diagnosed with melanoma, and then about five years ago she had breast cancer.

"I feel so lucky to have had a woman like her to look up to my entire life. She's the strongest woman I've ever met," Jaime said.

A natural caretaker, Aunt Rita had an impressive career as a nurse. Constantly taking care of others, she worked in hospitals, was a school nurse for 25 years, and taught young nurses as they entered the field. After taking care of others for so many years, it is now time for Aunt Rita to let her family take care of her.

"I feed off of her strength, but knowing that she has spent her entire life caring for other people it inspires the rest of my family to step in and be there for her," Jaime said. "We can take care of her and let her know that she doesn't have to worry about any of us. She doesn't have to carry the weight of this alone. We're here to ease that burden and to take it onto ourselves. We want to make sure she knows that she's not alone in this fight."

With her Aunt Rita getting diagnosed for the third time, cancer is now something Jaime thinks about often. "I'm thinking about it a lot, especially with COVID and knowing that her immune system is really weakened right now," Jaime added. "We have to be extra careful living our day-to-day lives. In terms of being worried that one day I'll get it, I try not to think that far ahead. I try to focus on the things I have right now and all of the good."

A South Philly native, Rita could possibly be the biggest Eagles fan – before you question that, Rita has been a season ticket holder since the 1950s. Nowadays, Rita watches the games at her house, but she still has her tickets that she distributes throughout her family.

"She is one of the toughest women I have ever met," said Jaime.

When it comes to cancer education, awareness is very important. Jaime and Corinne are grateful that the Crucial Catch game is dedicated to informing fans about early detection and reducing risks.

"I think education, especially for people my age, comes with sharing stories of people you know with cancer, putting a face to the name and making it more of a human experience rather than just something that feels distant," Jaime explained. "This can happen to anybody and there's so many types of cancers that you really want to do what you can to live your healthiest life and prevent any possible illnesses in the future."

"I think awareness is good because people need to make sure they're healthy and get checked out," Corinne continued. "While it may not be fair, it is important to recognize the hand you have been dealt and do your best to give yourself a fighting chance. I think that is what I have done for myself each year as I get older. I make it a point to stay healthy, be active, and most importantly know my body and detect when things are just not right."

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