Dallas Cowboys

5 breast cancer survivors hope to inspire Cowboys with their stories of fight, courage

The Dallas Cowboys will exhibit fight, determination and courage in trying to salvage their season in Sunday’s showdown at AT&T Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East and end their three-game losing streak.

For inspiration they need to look no further on their sideline before the game at five breast cancer survivors wearing pink Cowboys jerseys.

Belinda Chavez of Keller, Irene Robles of Houston, Ragina Ireland of Grand Prairie, LaTonya Davis of Miami and Cindy Couvilion of Dak Prescott’s hometown of Haughton, Louisiana, will be honored by the Cowboys and the Susan G. Komen Foundation on Sunday for being cancer survivors, giving back to the community and being big Cowboys fans.

They all have their own stories and their own journeys but it all began with fighting in the face of adversity and courage in the face of fear.

“I felt alone,” said Chavez, a 10-year cancer survivor. “I felt hopeless. It was kind of like a death sentence. With my three special needs kids they were my inspiration. I knew there was one way to go and that was to fight.”

Chavez was diagnosed shortly after her husband, Jose, got another job and the family moved to the area from Richmond, Virginia, in 2009.

Her children were 18 months, 4 and 5 at the time.

“Not knowing a sole here, I had to do some soul-searching to find out what was going on,” Chavez said. “I had six rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy, 33 rounds of radiation and reconstruction after. My kids were my inspiration to fight. My husband was my biggest cheerleader and my co-survivor. He did everything.”

Although she didn’t grow up in Dallas-Fort Worth, Chavez has been a Cowboys fan all her life dating to when Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett starred for the team in the 1980s.

Ireland, a native of Fort Worth and a graduate of Southwest High School, grew up a Cowboys fan and remembers her mother taking the whole family to games at the old Texas Stadium when she was a child.

She is a nine-year breast cancer survivor and chooses to be thankful for the journey.

“I never gave up hope,” Ireland said. “I would not trade my life to not having cancer because of the journey, because of what I learned and because I am able to help someone else. I would not trade my life or what I have gone through.”

Ireland started a foundation to help breast cancer survivors cope with the process, offering support and tips on making the best of the situation, especially for people of color.

“Chemo was tough. It was hard,” Ireland said. “I asked the Lord what did he want me to gain from the experience and he said making chemo bearable. So I have a foundation. We make bears that hold a little booklet with simple tips for coping with the side effects of chemotherapy. We do educational seminars. We do awareness events. We want to decrease the mortality rate in our community which is 40 percent higher than any other.

“But we target anybody that is on the journey. Our goal is to help people find joy in the journey. Everyone is looking for a cure but how do I make it through? It’s about helping people on the journey. What can they do to make that palatable?”

Ireland describes herself as healthy, happy and perky.

She wants nothing more on Sunday than finding a way to help the Cowboys get a win.

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.