Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo stood in the middle of the infusion room at the I.U. Health Simon Cancer Center on Tuesday morning – just watching as patients interacted with the Colts players, cheerleaders, and Colts mascot, Blue.
“I didn’t intend to walk over here. But I walked over, frankly, to lift my spirits because I knew everybody over here would be happy,” she said. “Sometimes, what we do isn’t that joyful because we have to deliver news that isn’t that great. But there isn’t a person over here that isn’t smiling.”
And pretty soon, she was smiling too.
“Just looking at a woman who’s getting chemotherapy wearing a turban and just fooling around with the mascot. He made her face just light up in a way that nothing else does,” she said. “It makes my day.”
The Colts made a lot of people’s day on Tuesday.
“It’s so nice that they take their time. I think it makes everybody feel better,” said Becky Carver, a Colts fan and multiple myeloma patient from Indianapolis.
“I happened to be here last year when they came through in October and it was so much fun. So, I was looking forward to it again,” said Vicki Winkler. Winkler is from Santa Claus, Indiana and has been fighting pancreatic cancer for a year a half.
And after a two-year battle against rectal cancer that spread to his liver and his lungs, Brian Bidwell was able to celebrate the end of his treatment on Tuesday morning by ringing the bell – alongside the Colts.
“There was a delay that kept me here longer, so I guess I was lucky to be able to see them because otherwise, I would have already been gone.”
For Brian, it’s been a journey wrought with life lessons – most of all, “Just to be strong.”
And for the players, it was a humbling experience – one they won’t soon forget.
“That’s a huge life moment for Brian and his family to have his last cancer treatment be today and for us to be here to see it,” said safety Matthias Farley. “He was obviously emotional and excited about it, so to be able to be beside him doing that was special.”
It was also an opportunity to show support to those who support them every day.
“They kept telling us how much they appreciated us being here and how big of Colts fans they are,” said long snapper Luke Rhodes. “They tell us how strong we are, but they’re the ones in here dealing with problems and fighting for their lives. It just puts things into perspective.”
It was a new perspective for Colts cheerleaders Lauren and Lori, who also work as nurses at Riley Hospital for Children.
“It’s totally different – having a different job today, but still having the same interest of helping patients and making them feel good,” said Lori. “I have to realize that I’m there to cheer people up and not help people in that way.”
At times, that was easier said than done.
“In one of the rooms, the IV pump was beeping and Lori and I were both looking at it like we wanted to touch it and do something, but we knew that was not our job today,” Lauren laughed.
Their job on Tuesday was simply to lift spirits, spread joy, and give hope.
And that’s what they did.
Many spirits were lifted, much joy was spread, and lots of hope was given. And in return, they got back even more.
“I think what they get out of this is understanding that there’s a world out there where people are really, really ill and fighting for their lives and also they understand how incredibly cool it is that they can be ambassadors of joy,” Storniolo said.
“To really know that they are goodwill ambassadors and sparking somebody’s day must make them feel really special.”
The IU Health Simon Cancer Center visit is one of several Colts events related to the NFL’s Crucial Catch. For more information, visit www.colts.com/crucialcatch.