When you’re 17 years old, hearing “you have cancer,” are the last three words you expect. In the blink of an eye, life comes to a halt and the focus goes from spending time with friends and graduating from high school to battling an unseen opponent. This is the story of Karly Billips of Greensboro, NC, when, on June 18th, 2018, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, after finding a large bump on her neck.
Family, Friends, and Community Support Aid in Healing
Karly began treatment for her cancer with a combination of different chemotherapies, taken on alternating days, with a break for her body to recover, and then starting again, ending after four rounds. During her chemo, Karly experienced the love of her family, friends, and community in a new light.
“The support of family and friends during treatment was extremely important. With being treated while school was in progress, it was rare that friends could actually visit me at the hospital, and I didn’t necessarily want them to see me in that state. My parents did whatever would help me most, and my brother, Hampton, who at the time lived in Charlotte, NC, would be here anytime I needed him. We spent multiple nights, all four of us, sleeping in a tiny, noisy hospital room; it was their support that kept me fighting each day,” recalled Karly.
The community also stepped up to help Karly during her battle with cancer. “At any moment there was someone who could make me whatever I wanted to eat, once I felt like eating, or pick my parents up to drive them home to rest, and a couple of my friends’ moms redid my room and added a TV, to make it easier to stay in my bed for days on end. It’s the same community that has come together to make my brother’s idea of a charity flag football game to raise money for the groups that helped us as a family a success, as we celebrate our 4th Annual Pigskin for Hodgkins event,” Karly commented.
A Brother’s Love of His Sister and Football Combine
During Karly’s diagnosis and treatment, her brother, Hampton, had just graduated from college and moved to Charlotte, NC for his first job, but being over an hour away didn’t stop him from being with his sister.
“I have always been very family-centered and even though I was living in Charlotte, NC, I was on I-85 all the time. I would often drive straight from work to the hospital and work from Karly’s room. Our community helped us as a family in ways I never even imagined we would need. Whether it was a note, prayer, a hug, or decorating Karly’s hospital room in vibrant colors, the people in our community answered the call. I knew those that helped us could make a difference for others in the world by simply giving them a target or a goal, and that is Pigskin for Hodgkins, which I started during Karly’s battle to help fundraise for local charities,” stated Hampton.
Pigskin for Hodgkins partners with organizations that helped the Billips family during Karly’s battle with Hodgkins. “As a family, we were first-hand witnesses to the impact of Emily’s Kids, Arts-For-Life, St. Baldrick’s, and Make-A-Wish, and for the past three years we have raised over $25,000 for those groups. Our teams feature former high school, college, and professional athletes playing alongside some other faces familiar to the Triad area. We have two teams, White and Purple. In 2022, we are launching ‘Packages from Pigskin.’ This year, our board of directors will be constructing packages that will contain chargers, games, gift cards, etc., to deliver to teenagers that are being treated at Brenner Children’s Hospital. Our goal is for these packages to make their stay more comfortable, provide them with a few distractions, and let them know that they are loved. At this year’s game we will have Chick-Fil-A donating chicken sandwiches for purchase and booths featuring the organizations we partner with. We’ll have merchandise available, as well as a raffle and opportunities to win prizes,” Hampton said.
Karly is now a junior at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC and is cancer free. “I have come a long way since treatment, but my life will never go back to what it was before cancer. There are many challenges, internal and external, that will forever follow me, and I am working on embracing them. I now have different hair, that even after three years is impossible to style naturally, and I struggle with PTSD and anxiety. I am working on a degree in Nursing to help kids like I was, in pediatric oncology. I want to do for my future patients what so many nurses did for me,” commented Karly.
For more information, visit www.pigskinforhodgkins.org or on Instagram @PigskinForHodgkins. This year’s event will be on March 26th, 2022, at Northwest Guilford High School. Gates open at 12 PM and the game kick-off is at 1 PM. A minimum donation of $1.00 is requested at the gate.