A kid’s perspective: 10-year-olds reflect on losing grandmothers to breast cancer

They’re daughters of a former NFL player and a Charlotte news anchor, met at four years old, and already have a lot in common.
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 12:37 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 3:56 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s something former NFL player DeAngelo Williams and WBTV Anchor Molly Grantham have never done before: Let their 10-year-old daughters speak for them.

“Instead of me interviewing DeAngelo, as we have done before, we’re trying something new,” Molly said. “My daughter, Parker, playing the role of me, and Rhiya playing the role of her dad. They met once when they were four. Neither remembers, but they have lots in common: They both lost grandmothers to breast cancer.”

“I don’t know what they’re going to say,” DeAngelo laughed. “I really don’t have any idea.”

“During the interview, we intentionally stayed out of the room,” Molly said. “We wanted it to be real, so DeAngelo, his wife Risalyn, and I left the area to go where we couldn’t hear them. If we were going to let them talk, we wanted them to really talk. Not just be two girls saying what they think their parents would want to hear. Our WBTV News crew—all guys, by the way—were the only ones there listening to our 5th and 6th graders talk about cancer and the meaning behind giving back to help other women in the community. I’ve since seen the story before it aired, but didn’t have a big role in coordinating any of it.”

WBTV Breast Cancer Awareness
Parker and Rhiya both lost grandmothers to breast cancer(WBTV)

DeAngelo Williams lost his mother, Sandra Hill, to the disease in 2014. She was 53 years old. Sandra was the only one of her sisters to make it past the age of 50—all four died from breast cancer at young ages. At the time, DeAngelo played running back for the Carolina Panthers and his mom’s battle spurred him to push the NFL to turn pink in October in honor of her, his aunts, and all women who fight. He now has a 501©3 Foundation—The DeAngelo Williams Foundation—that pays to give 53 mammograms a year to underserved women in the Charlotte community who don’t have the insurance to get a yearly scan. If any lump or cancer is found in the free mammogram, DeAngelo’s foundation then pays for all treatments going forward.

» This Saturday, August 7th, is the fundraising event to pay for those mammograms. It’s called the DeAthlon and is a bike ride and run. It starts at 7:00 a.m. in Waxhaw across from the Marvin Town Centre. Here’s how you can sign up.

Also, women can still call to get a slot for one of the free mammograms. Two of Novant Health’s mobile mammography units will be on-site in Waxhaw. A third unit will be in west Charlotte at the Michael Jordan Family Health Medical Clinic on Freedom Drive for those who might not have transportation to the southern part of Mecklenburg County.

If you’re wanting to see if you qualify for the free mammograms—you must be over the age of 35, have immediate family history, and have not had a mammogram in the past year—please call 980-302-6685. Or, if you want to speak to someone in Spanish, call 980-302-6257.

» Related: Charlotte radio personality to listeners after breast cancer diagnosis: get a mammogram

“Pink is not just a color to me,” DeAngelo has always said. “It’s a lifestyle. Having the mammograms on-site at our event is important to me. It’s seeing your donation dollars go to work—I want people to see their donations at work and I just want to help women. We want them to get tested. Mammograms can save lives.”

Rhiya was only three years old when her Nana died. “Three is young,” DeAngelo said. “I’d like to think she has memories of my mom, but it’s probably only through pictures. You know how when you look at a photo and you kinda put yourself in that mindset that you remember being there? I think that photos of my mom are helpful as a visual aid to Rhiya.”

WBTV News at 11
Rhiya was only three years old when her Nana died(WBTV)

Both DeAngelo and Molly have bonded over the breast cancer cause in the Charlotte area. Molly first interviewed him in 2009 to specifically ask how the disease impacted his life. Since then, they’ve forged a friendship… though never putting their daughters in the spotlight to talk for them, until now.

“I thought the first time you were going to interview me you’d say you wanted to talk breast cancer, get approval for the interview from the Panthers, ask me one question about cancer, then turn to football and try to talk about the team,” DeAngelo admitted this past week. “But in 45-minutes of us meeting back then, you didn’t ask me one thing about football.” He laughed loudly. “I never forgot that. I know you well enough now to know, you really didn’t care about football. You really did just want to know about the cause and what I was going to do to help.”

Molly’s mom, Wilsie Hartman, also died of breast cancer. She fought it two times—first diagnosed when Molly was 12—and finally lost her battle in 2017. Molly’s daughter, Parker, had just turned six.

“I think Parker does have some memories of Grammy,” Molly said. “But I’ve never really asked her what they might be. It’s unnerving to know such an important conversation played out, with TV cameras rolling, and to take a step back and let your child take over. But,” she looked at DeAngelo, “we both agreed to let it happen.”

They’re letting it happen because of the importance of mammograms and early detection. The idea to let the girls do the interview came from DeAngelo’s wife, Risalyn. Why not get a child’s perspective on this nasty disease, she said, and ask kids what it means to give back and help?

DeAngelo called Molly, pitched it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Our goal is to acknowledge and show—through children—how breast cancer can impact families. It hits one in eight women and one in 1,000 men. But entire families fight when the household has a diagnosis. And, it’s a disease that if caught early, is more likely to be preventable.”

“Get a mammogram,” DeAngelo said. “We just want women to get their mammograms. Call the numbers we have set up to see if you qualify because we want to help you.”

Parker and Rhiya interview each other for WBTV News at 11
Parker and Rhiya interview each other for WBTV News at 11(WBTV)

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