As Rose Chase battled cancer last year, two things gave her hope: family and getting back to Tim Hortons Field to see her beloved Tiger-Cats.
Born and raised in Hamilton – she went to high school at Scott Park, just steps from old Ivor Wynne Stadium – Chase has been a season ticket holder since 1982, shortly after her then-boyfriend took her to her very first game.
“I was hooked right from the start. I thought ‘this is the best,'” Chase says, 54. “Then we started going to Grey Cups, away games once a year… it just continued from there.”
The boyfriend became her husband and they had two kids, a boy and girl, and they went to games too. Over the years, they developed relationships with some of the Ticat players, guys like Wally Zatylny, Earl Winfield and Grover Covington (she also found Greg Ellingson’s phone at Grey Cup once but that’s a whole other story.)
“Grover used to live in our building and used to make fun of me when I was pregnant,” Chase says. “He’d say ‘Is there room for me on this elevator?'”
Six years ago, Chase got a job opportunity in Calgary that was too good to pass up. Her children were grown so she moved out West – but hung on to her season tickets, usually attending about four games a year.
“I go home for as many games as I can – always Labour Day,” she says. “When the players did the helmet salute at the first game at Tim Hortons Field, it gave me goose bumps. It gives me goose bumps just talking about it now.”
Then last May, just as the football season was set to get underway, Chase received a devastating diagnosis: lung cancer. Two months later she had surgery, then quickly began 16 weeks of gruelling chemotherapy.
“Chemo is something that brings you to death’s door so you have to focus on something to get through it,” Chase says. “You don’t know what to expect or what you have to look forward to, so you just concentrate on what’s important to you.
“For me, it was my family and football.”
When the Ticats learned that Chase was ill and wouldn’t be attending games – she’s gotten to know team CEO Scott Mitchell over the years – they reached out to offer their support. Quarterback Zach Collaros sent a signed photo along with a get-well message.
So last week, with the team practicing in Calgary for the week ahead of Friday night’s contest in Edmonton (for full details on the game visit 3DownNation.com), Chase came to Ernest Manning high school to watch the team in action and deliver a simple message: thanks. She spoke to head coach Kent Austin for about 10 minutes.
“I really believe this team helped me get through the last year,” she says.
Now a year removed from surgery, Chase is cautiously optimistic about her recovery. Best of all, she’s well enough to travel again and will travel to Hamilton in September to take in the Labour Day game at Tim Hortons Field.
“After everything I’ve been through, it will be so special to be there again,” Chase says. “Something else to look forward to.”