This time last year, when Stacey Piazza received an invitation to attend the New England Patriots Foundation's annual "Day of Pampering," the cancer survivor didn't quite know what to expect.
What she found upon arrival that day was a feeling she needed to replicate.
"My first experience was last year – I was actually a participant nominated to come, which was amazing for me," she said, volunteering to be with 18 more survivors at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday.
"I needed to come back. I needed to give back. I needed to be with the people who gave to me at a time in my journey through cancer and my survival. I wanted to give back to women because I can relate to what they're going through, share the experience, and see the day all over again through someone else's eyes."
Celebrating the NFL's Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer campaign, 18 patients of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Cancer Center received surprise invitations to attend the special day.
After a car picked each woman up at her home, they were treated to a healthy breakfast as well as facials, manicures, and massages. The women got to know each other as they made bracelets and poured their own non-toxic soy candles.
"To get doted on in that manner is extra special for me because it's always about necessities and this is just about extra abundance and being cared for, so that really hits home for me," said Melissa Rivera, who like the other attendees, were touched by the experience.
"It's not often you can be around people who have gone through what you've gone through. The understanding is just next level. The way we can talk to each other is unfiltered and we don't really hold back. I think some people don't know how to breach the conversation of cancer and your treatment. To me, it just takes the edge off of what we've been through and is really great camaraderie."
The day is always special for Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, as well. He made an appearance at lunchtime, with Patriots players David Andrews and Shaun Wade, to announce one more surprise.
"It's always a treat for me to come here on this day, see all of you, and tell you how special we think you are," Kraft said.
"I remember when I was privileged to make a few dollars, starting out, the first big gift I made was at Dana Farber to the blood lab there. We feel very close to all of you and want you to feel that partnership. We'd like you all to come and attend our Crucial Catch game this Sunday. We'll have you on the field at halftime, and I hope it's something that brings all of you a little bit of joy. Hopefully, you'll help us get a victory."
The Patriots Foundation invited eighteen cancer survivors to Gillette Stadium for a day of pampering as part of the NFL's Crucial Catch Campaign on October 3, 2023. The day involved candle and jewelry making, manicures, facials, massages, and a visit to the field. The survivors are currently receiving treatment at Mass General Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and surrounding areas. They were joined by Patriots players David Andrews and Shaun Wade, as well as by Patriots Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. The survivors were also surprised by Robert Kraft with tickets to the Patriots home game on October 8.