Tuesday, September 25, 2018
News Roundup

Breast cancer survivor surprised by happy homecoming at Bucs game

TAMPA — Reina Campbell spent Sunday morning talking about her son.

She told the people around her dressed in pink that he was the reason she was there, the reason her chemotherapy hangover didn't seem so bad and the reason she was wearing a camouflage breast cancer T-shirt that said "Fighter."

During the second TV commercial break of the second period of the Buccaneers game Sunday, Campbell, 55, knew she'd be ushered from the suite at Raymond James Stadium and onto the deck of the Pirate Ship. She knew she'd be recognized for her fight with cancer, and that her eldest son, Capt. Joshua Gunderson with the U.S. Air Force, had sent her a video message from his base in Anchorage.

She knew she wished he could be there.

And then he was.

•••

Gunderson texted his mother earlier that morning, said he'd be watching the game from the Peanut Farm, a bar in Alaska they both liked, and that seemed close enough.

So when the time came, when the booming voice on the intercom called her name, she stepped onto the balcony, a camouflage hat covering her short and thinning hair.

She waved at the sea of clapping fans, then trained her eyes on the Jumbotron.

"Hi mom," smiled her son, snow falling behind him. "I wish I could be there for you today, but I'm proudly serving our country in Alaska. Keep fighting, mom, and go Bucs."

She beamed, then heard someone tell her to turn to her right.

"No way," she thought. "I'm watching my son."

Then she felt a hand on her shoulder and heard a familiar voice.

"Mama?"

•••

The scheming started in July, around the time that Florida Cancer Specialists began compiling a list of breast cancer patients to recognize at Sunday's Bucs game. They needed to have a military connection.

Reina Campbell would be perfect, her doctors thought.

She'd battled and beaten cancer once before, and was fighting it again. Her son, whom she'd told her doctors all about, flew jets for the Air Force. She deserved to be recognized, and so did he.

But he was all the way in Alaska.

"Our imaginations started to go wild," said Dr. Waide Weaver, a family friend and oncologist at Florida Cancer Specialists. They talked about flying Gunderson into Tampa, then having him pilot a jet during the pre-game flyover. But that got too complicated.

"We said, 'Let's not get greedy,' " Weaver said. "Let's just get him here."

So they planned the big surprise in secret, telling only a few family members and Campbell's oncologist, Dr. David Wright, that Gunderson was coming to town. He flew into Tampa on Friday and spent the weekend setting the stage.

He texted his mom about how cold it was in Anchorage. He told her how much he wished he could be there. He wished her luck early Sunday morning as he was, wink, wink, on his way to work.

She believed him.

They hadn't seen each other since July, when Campbell flew to Alaska for Gunderson's 29th birthday. A single mom until she remarried five years ago, Campbell said her kids kept her going.

"We are the three musketeers," she said. "Your body wears out, it does. . . . But you fight for your children. That is what we do."

She found the lump in 2006. Doctors said it was breast cancer. Campbell underwent chemotherapy, then a double mastectomy, then radiation. Within two months of her diagnosis, three other family members were diagnosed with cancer, including her father. It was in his lungs.

He died nine months later.

Through it all, Gunderson was traveling across the world, to Colorado, Spain, Texas, Oregon and Japan before settling in Alaska. Being away from family, especially from his mom, he said, has been the hardest part.

So on Sunday, as Bucs staffers shuffled him from the VIP room to the first aid station to the pirate ship, as people asked him questions and took his picture, Gunderson wasn't the least bit unnerved.

"I'm just really excited to see my mom," he said.

•••

"Oh," Campbell cried out as she turned to her right. "My son!"

She hugged him and kissed him and cupped his face. She cried.

In the stands, Gunderson's younger brother was just as surprised. Those who'd been keeping the secret for months felt relieved.

"Everyone knew but me!" Campbell said.

The tears kept flowing.

They headed back to the suite, where Gunderson told his mom that he was proud of her for fighting.

"Honey," she said. "I do it for you and your brother. Everything I do is for you."

Contact Katie Mettler at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446.

   
Comments
The Daystarter: The FitzMagic is FitzGone as Bucs fall 30-27; businesses struggle to get Red Tide aid; DeSantis takes shots at media

The Daystarter: The FitzMagic is FitzGone as Bucs fall 30-27; businesses struggle to get Red Tide aid; DeSantis takes shots at media

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Expect a repeat today of yesterday’s weather pattern: Storms will start inland and push into the coat in the evening hours, according to the National Weather Service. There will be a ...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Scenes from Monday night’s game: Rally falls just short in Buc’s loss to Steelers

Scenes from Monday night’s game: Rally falls just short in Buc’s loss to Steelers

Fitzpatrick was intercepted on three consecutive passes in the first half to fall behind by 20 points.But the Bucs veteran quarterback rallied the Bucs to within a field goal with touchdown passes to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in the second half.Unf...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers report card: There is still work to be done

Bucs-Steelers report card: There is still work to be done

TAMPA — They couldn't stick the landing. The FitzMagic ran out.Monday night against the Steelers, Tony Dungy night, was supposed to be the coming-out party, a new beginning, the Bucs on national TV, showing America that 2-0 was not make believe...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers: No wrong answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback

Bucs-Steelers: No wrong answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback

TAMPA — So this should be a fun week over at One Buc Place.Who's the quarterback?That question will be asked a few times this week.This question will be asked a few dozen times:Who should be the quarterback?The debate will rage on. We'll talk a...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers: Tony Dungy gave us more than wins

Bucs-Steelers: Tony Dungy gave us more than wins

TAMPA — Monday night belonged to Tony Dungy. The former Bucs coach was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dungy's first NFL team.If it seemed strange that an NFL club would honor a ma...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays journal: Sound familiar? Yankees make Monday a ‘Bullpen Day’

Rays journal: Sound familiar? Yankees make Monday a ‘Bullpen Day’

ST. PETERSBURG — In an effort to line up their pitching staff for the postseason, the Yankees stole a page out of the Rays playbook Monday night. New York designated the game  a "bullpen day" and did it ever use its bullpen.RHP Jonathan Ho...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Playoffs gone but goals aren’t for Rays to finish season

Playoffs gone but goals aren’t for Rays to finish season

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' postseason hopes, as unlikely as they had seemed, officially ended with Monday's 4-1 loss to the Yankees, manager Kevin Cash speaking for many saying they should be proud of what they did.And that doesn't mean they do...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Struggling against Red Tide, a Redington Beach liquor store is too small to qualify for local aid

Struggling against Red Tide, a Redington Beach liquor store is too small to qualify for local aid

REDINGTON BEACH — Mark Wilson hasn’t had a customer for hours.As the only liquor store on his stretch of Pinellas County beaches, Wilson is used to a steady stream of tourists from the nearby condos and hotels. Other beachfront businesses affected by...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Hey kids, you really stink at this voting business

Hey kids, you really stink at this voting business

The public service announcement begins with an insult.This works on several levels for the audience of teenagers.It grabs their attention and makes them laugh. It also happens to be wickedly accurate, and it pretty much explains why Pasco Supervisor ...
Published: 09/25/18
Former Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie will try to reclaim office

Former Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie will try to reclaim office

TARPON SPRINGS — Former Mayor and City Commissioner David Archie will run for mayor again in the March election.Mayor Chris Alahouzos, elected mayor in 2016 when Archie was prevented by term limits from running again, said he is looking forwar...
Published: 09/25/18