Retired Chiefs players honor 18-year-old cancer survivor

GRANDVIEW, Mo. —  To play in the National Football League, athletes need stamina and confidence. The Kansas City Chiefs Ambassadors recall those demands. They’re a group of retired NFL veterans who speak to area schools.

It’s the end of the school year for seniors at Grandview High School and the outgoing group of 220 began their final day of high school expecting a visit from the Kansas City Chiefs Ambassadors.

One of those seniors — 18-year-old Ashley Anderson — didn’t know the retired ballplayers were here to honor her.

“She’s overcome stage IV lymphoma,” retired Chiefs’ defensive lineman Bill Mass announced, as he stood before a crowded high school auditorium. Five retired Chiefs honored Anderson on stage, as her classmates cheered with enthusiasm.

These retired Chiefs say Anderson’s fight beats anything they did on the gridiron.

Anderson’s struggle with cancer is chronicled on this Caring Bridge web page. She was diagnosed with lymphoma nearly eight years ago. Since then, she’s undergone at least ten rounds of chemotherapy.

Anderson said she stayed informed throughout her treatment, and knowledge kept her spirits high.

“Through the whole process, I wanted to know everything,” Anderson said. “I wanted doctor words as to what was going to happen.”

This group of Chiefs players have followed Anderson’s recovery. Maas said she’s one of many patients the players befriended at Camp Quality, a facility in Excelsior Springs where sick kids are given the chance to forget their troubles and play.

“They’re battling for their lives,” Maas said. “We use that cliches too often — non-chalantly, but when you see what these kids go through, really battling for their lives, it’s a lot different.”

“She’s an inspiration for everyone here at Grandview,” retired Chiefs’ center Tim Grunhard said. “She’s an inspiration for everybody at Camp Quality and getting to know her and getting to know her, she’s an inspiration for me.”

“I surround myself with people,” Anderson said. “I know I can help them because I’ve been through so much. I can transfer what I’ve been through to help them.”

Anderson says she’s back to feeling great, and now that high school is over, she’s targeting a career in cosmetology.

Anderson and 219 other seniors will call it a high school career next week. Grandview High School’s graduation ceremony is on the books for Monday night.

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