Mike Filer’s mom loved his beard.
He started growing it in university and by the time he became an integral member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive line a few seasons ago, it was big and bushy and more or less out of control. The whole family has impressive facial hair – father Greg rocks a pretty impressive moustache-beard combo – so it’s hardly surprising Kim Filer was a fan of facial hair.
But she’d be even more proud of how Mike got rid of it.
Kim Filer fought cancer for nine years. She endured long days of treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma – chemotherapy, radiation, a stem-cell transplant – and sleepless nights of worry and discomfort. Much of her treatment took place at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre in Hamilton.
So on Wednesday Mike sat on a chair parked in the middle of the last unfinished space in Juravinski, right in the middle of where a $5 million, state-of-the-art stem-cell transplant facility will soon begin construction. He handed over a cheque for almost $23,000, money he raised from the month-long Mike’s Manscaping Challenge.
And then he watched as his long hair and giant beard fell to the floor, one black clump at a time.
“I knew there was something I wanted to do on a more personal level to honour my mom,” Filer said. “It feels great to be able to give back to something I feel so personal about. We’ve been here.”
Filer grew up in Brantford a Ticat fan and played his first game in Black and Gold on Oct. 12, 2012. He ran from the tunnel at old Ivor Wynne Stadium and onto the field and looked into to the stands to find his parents in the crowd. His dad took video and it features his mother screaming in happiness.
“I still look up at Tim Hortons Fields where she used to sit, smiling and banging her cowbell,” Mike said. “That’s what I have left, pictures and memories.”
Greg and Kim were married 46 years, coping together with the ups and downs of her long illness. He was there on Wednesday to support his son, remember his wife and to give back to the place that has come to mean so much to them.
“We spent a lot of time here at this hospital. It’s so important to be able to talk about why this is important,” Greg said. “The support we received here from the doctors and the staff was just unbelievable.”
By the fall of 2016, Kim was on the decline. Late in the Ticat season, with the team battling for a playoff spot, she came to her final game, sitting in a suite provided by the team wrapped head to toe in blankets. Greg wasn’t sure it was a good idea.
“She didn’t miss a play. She wasn’t feeling great but that didn’t matter. What mattered was watching Mike on the field,” he said. “She was a very proud mom to watch her son on the football field.
“She’d be even more proud of him today.”