Lydia Caldwell was prepared to skip her annual mammogram.
Facing a struggling financial situation and what she feared would be an awkward – and expensive – trip to the doctor, it looked more and more like she would be putting off the important check up this time around.
"We were in a situation with finances this year, and every time a woman has to get a mammogram it's an uncomfortable situation to begin with," said Caldwell. "When you add the economy to it, it was a situation this year where I thought honestly, I'd just skip it. I've had a five-six year history of different issues with my breasts, so it would have been the stupidest decision I would have ever made."
Thankfully, her doctor had a resolution
"He said, 'Hey, I heard about this wonderful new clinic,'" she recalled. "It's a very soothing, wonderful place to go for this kind of uncomfortable procedure."
Caldwell was directed to University Community Hospital's Breast Center Clinic, which provides mammograms for uninsured or underinsured women who don't regularly have the funds to pay for them. It was there that she was provided the service free of charge and given the welcomed news that she was breast cancer-free.
This month, the Buccaneers made sure that Caldwell's story wasn't the last of its kind.
In honor of breast cancer awareness month, the Buccaneers donated a total of $5,000 to local health centers committed to breast cancer health and treatment, including Moffitt Cancer Center, St. Joseph's Women's Hospital Breast Center, Tampa General Hospital, University Community Hospital and the American Cancer Society. The donated funds will go directly to providing mammograms for women in situations like Caldwell's.
"It just warmed my heart," said Caldwell about the service at University Community Hospital. "It's a blessing to the community, it was a blessing to my family, with our financial situation, to put my mind at ease and go have this test. [They were] very nice the results I got back this year. Obviously, that was great, but just honestly to feel at ease, knowing that there's a center to go to and wonderful people to talk to if you've got questions or apprehensions about the procedure, it's just a really exciting thing to have in our community."
Last week, the Buccaneers invited representatives from the recipient organizations to One Buccaneer Place for an opportunity to watch practice and meet with two Buccaneers deeply committed to the cause of breast cancer awareness: cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Adam Hayward.
"I think we've always done a good job with our place in this community and this is just another aspect of that," said Barber. "I think we've recognized the importance of this breast cancer awareness campaign. Obviously, it's across the NFL, but if you can bring it back to your community like we have with our donation to these four hospitals, we can internally pat ourselves on the back for what we're trying to get done and the awareness we're trying to bring."
Barber, whose mother and grandmother are both breast cancer survivors, shares a connection with the younger Hayward that runs deeper than the pewter and red. Hayward lost his mother to the deadly disease and knows all too well the importance of getting regular check-ups by a physician.
"Honestly, I think it's a great thing for this organization to do because it shows that besides being football players, the community is a big part [of us] because without the community, we wouldn't be doing what we're doing," said Hayward. "Even if you're underprivileged, you can still prevent something so tragic like this."
Since the passing of his mother, Hayward has become a proud supporter of the cause, leading the fight through numerous fundraisers and awareness campaigns.
"Anything Tampa's doing for breast cancer, I'm trying to be a part of it and I try to help as much as I can to show that we all care," the linebacker said. "Everybody has a mother."
Barber is an active supporter and spokesman for the movement as well. Along with filming a public service announcement that aired on the Lifetime Television network to help raise breast cancer awareness, he annually participates in numerous fundraisers for cancer research. The cornerback was one of many NFL players during the month of October that supported the cause by wearing pink athletic apparel, a move made by every team over the past four Sundays.
"I think [the NFL] is following suit of baseball and some of the other sports and really taking advantage of the type of exposure that professional sports can give it," added Barber. "It's a unique thing, it's kind of a cool thing to wear the pink, but to have that ability to spread your influence over so many millions of fans and viewers, it's a very honorable and noble thing."
As the league continues to provide awareness on a national stage, the Buccaneers hope that their donation can make a direct impact on local families throughout the Bay area.
Perhaps their donation already has.
"This is a huge deal for us," said Linda Wenzel from University Community Hospital. "We appreciate this, the community appreciates this. Obviously, we appreciate the donation and the relationship. I think it's going to save lots of lives."