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CLINE: Falcons game a nice break for contest winner

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

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Special Photo Gwinnett Daily Post Atlanta Falcons ticket winner Lisa Anglese, left, and her caregiver Julie DiMizio enjoy Sunday's game at the Georgia Dome.

Sunday's playoff win by the Falcons was a lot of things. Euphoric. Nerve-wracking. Redemptive. A roller coaster.

But for Lisa Anglese, it was a respite. A nice escape. A treat for her, but more importantly, for those who care for her.

The Suwanee resident is battling cancer. As anyone facing the same situation will tell you, it's not a fight you want to face alone. Thanks to family and friends, Anglese doesn't have to worry about that.

There's her husband who is always there for her, a college son who does the same. And a best friend who takes her to chemo treatments and helps in any way needed. It's a team Falcons coach Mike Smith himself would be proud of.

Those people were who Anglese mentioned in an essay for a contest last week that saw the Daily Post give away four club level seats to the Falcons divisional playoff game vs. Seattle. It was that group -- call them Team Anglese -- which was able to enjoy Atlanta's thrilling comeback win that put the Falcons in this week's NFC title game. For a lot of reasons, it's a day they won't soon forget.

"It was so much fun," Anglese said. "It's been a while. Everyone, we just had a great time. Nobody talked about cancer, nobody thought about cancer -- we just had fun."

There aren't many days like that for Anglese, or for anyone battling cancer. She goes for weekly treatments that involve oral and IV chemo. They are brutal sessions, their impact being felt for days, not hours. But as tough as those sessions are, they are hers. Anglese knows it is her body, her cancer, her fight.

So imagine the lift she feels when others, like best friend Julie DiMizio, make it their fight as well.

"Everybody is always so good to me, so kind, and I notice. Even little things like opening the door," said Anglese, who wears a scarf to cover her head bald from chemo. "But they always forget about the caretakers.

"I wanted to do something for my husband (Craig). His life isn't fun right now. And I wanted to do something for my son (Brandon). And then there's Julie.

"She's able to go into treatment with me almost every week. It usually lasts four to six hours, and she never leaves me. And when she doesn't come with me, everyone asks where she is.

"I never have to ask. She just does it. It's hard to ask for help (in this situation). When someone just does it, you don't have to ask, and it just makes it easier for everyone."

Anglese was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. She had surgery and went through chemo, and both were successful. But the cancer recurred in 2009, showing up in her lymph nodes and neck. She went through many different treatments, including neck disection surgery that had to be aborted when doctors found the cancer had spread.

She's been getting her current treatments since September. With no cure for this type of cancer, she knows the treatments will go on indefinitely as doctors try to stabilize her cancer. It's a hard fight, to be sure. But one that is made a little easier thanks to her support group.

"I think they have it harder than I do," Anglese said.

Flash back to Sunday's game. Things that looked so good when the Falcons were up 20 points changed dramatically when the Seahawks took a late lead. But before Team Anglese could bemoan a crushing defeat, Matt Bryant's game-winning field goal capped a memorable day.

"Leaving the stadium everyone was just roaring," Anglese said. "It was nerve-wracking. We were all biting our nails. We were so excited when they pulled it off in the last few seconds."

It wasn't easy, but the Falcons didn't give up. They kept fighting, a trait to which Anglese can certainly relate.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailiypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.