FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – October is cancer awareness month across the NFL and Sunday afternoon the Colts welcomed a local teen who is now cancer-free.
“Everybody was cheering me on, it just meant the world to me and it’s something I will never forget.”
That’s how 19-year old Conner West describes his moment ringing the bell before the Colts game against the Texans.
Back in late 2016 Conner West was diagnosed with Leukemia, it meant he had to stop playing football for Huntington North to fight the disease. He received treatment from Riley Children’s Health and with the help of his brother Jordan, who was his stem cell donor, he was able to beat the disease. This past Sunday the Colts welcomed him, his family and Riley Children’s Health care team members, to help him celebrate by ringing the bell.
“It meant the world to me, especially with the whole month being crucial catch and they are doing that and for me to actually be a part of it, to get to go through it because obviously not everyone gets to go through it and be a part of it. To get on the sidelines it was just everything to me,” says West.
Dr. Jodi Skiles, an Oncologist at Riley Children’s Health, and Conner’s doctor knew he was a big football fan and nominated him to ring the bell at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Being able to ring the bell knowing that you are 100% doner. That your chances of continuing to survive and thrive and beat this is a big deal,” explains Dr. Skiles, “So being able to ring that bell is a sign of victory, that he has triumphed over cancer is a really exciting moment,”
The pregame festivities did not go off without a hitch however, as Conner rang the bell with such enthusiasm that it broke off. Colts’ mascot Blue had him take the bell home to remember the day he brought Colts nation to its feet. As for what is next for the bell…”I don’t exactly know, I will keep it and I had a bunch of people sign it and it will probably be the people that are closer to me or that mean more to me,” explains West, “So my closest friends I’ll probably have sign it, but I’ll keep it just as a reminder of everything that I went through and to remind me of the experience that I had.”
Conner is currently a student at Huntington University and is pursuing a degree in sports management.