For His Mom, Beau Allen Opens Up
Thanks to a most timely bye week, Beau Allen was able to travel back to the Twin Cities to be with his mother, Susie, for her 50th birthday. Now gainfully employed by the Philadelphia Eagles, the 22-year-old was able to treat his folks to dinner for the first time.
“We spent a lot of money and he was just proud and thrilled to take us out for my birthday celebration,” Susie said.
The 50-year mark holds extra significance in the Allen family. Susie’s dad died at the age of 46 from a pulmonary embolism a week after falling out of a tree while deer hunting. Her mom passed away two years later following a battle with cancer at the age of 49.
“My [older] siblings are always joking, when the baby makes it to 50 they’ll be very happy. So I made it,” said Susie.
There was a time, however, where it looked like she might not.
In 2004 Susie was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer, which had spread into a lymph node in her arm. It was only through her own diligence that it was discovered in time.
“I didn’t have a lump. My skin felt funny. It felt a little different. There wasn’t any other thing. I’m a nurse and I’m like, well, I’m going to go in,” Susie said.
She had a mammogram and an ultrasound taken but neither detected cancer.
“They didn’t see anything. Nothing there. I said, ‘I don’t want to wait six months and do it again. I’d like to have a biopsy.’ And they said, ‘Great, come in.’ If I wouldn’t have said that, I would not be talking to you now.
“You can imagine my talks with the doctors were just like, ‘Please, I don’t want my kids to go through [the same thing I did.]’”
Susie had successful surgery in November of 2004, right around Beau’s 13th birthday. She will be 10 years cancer-free next month.
“I’m just so, so happy to be alive. Every day I say a little prayer. Just so thankful to have a lovely husband and three lovely children. I couldn’t be more blessed,” said Susie. “Life is good.”
As Beau started his slow strut through the locker room, he noticed one of his teammates sporting a fresh look.
“Mark Sanchez with the bye-week haircut.”
“Gotta change it up.”
“Haircuts are for squaaaarrres,” Allen mumbled as he strolled by.
If that’s the criteria, Allen will never be mistaken for a square. With locks extending halfway down his back and a shaggy beard to match, the 6-2, 333-pound nose guard is 10 parts mountain man and zero parts GQ.
“He’s not easy on the eyes,” shot back Sanchez. “But he’s a heck of a football player and a good dude.”
There is a story behind the look. When his mom was going through chemotherapy, her hair began to fall out. “She wasn’t feeling good, the chemo was making her sick. As a kid, it’s just kind of hard and confusing, you don’t really know what’s going on,” Allen wrote. “Those are kind of the emotions that were going through my head at the time.”
Upon arrival at Wisconsin, he was struck by a couple teammates that had grown out their hair so they could donate it to cancer patients. Allen decided to follow suit. He has had just two trims over the last five years — one at the request of his mom. When he finally cuts it off he promises to make a big production out of it to help raise awareness. But he’s not ready to part ways with it quite yet.
“Every time I brush it out or put it in a pony tail or whateverI just think of the stuff that my mom has been through. It kind of reminds me not to take anything for granted,” he said.
“Plus it looks bad ass.”
From the moment Beau came into this world, it was pretty evident that he wasn’t destined to blend in. Born five-and-a-half weeks premature, young Beau still weighed in at eight pounds and stood out just a bit in the NICU.
“He was actually struggling and was in the special care nursery and my husband and I were standing in front of the glass,” Susie remembers, “and he was there with all the tubes and lines and it was pretty emotional because he was not doing very well. And we were looking at him next to these two-pound preemies and some guy came up and goes, ‘What’s that fat thing doing in here?’ I started crying and go, ‘That’s my baby and he’s a preemie, too!’
“The doctors couldn’t find out why he was premature. He kicked me so hard he broke my water. It was like a toddler, like a nine-year old kicking me right in the gut and breaking my water. We just laugh and it’s like, ‘Well, Beau wasn’t getting enough nutrients so he wanted some real food.’ Beau’s always been a funny kid. And we’re happy that he made it, too.”
Not that his size (or athleticism) was all that unexpected. Susie’s dad was 6-4 and a three-time All-American NCAA champion swimmer at University of Wisconsin. Matt Allen, Beau’s dad, was “the runt of the litter” at six-feet tall, while his father and brothers checked in at 6-4 and 6-5. Matt and Susie both played sports.
“He was always a big kid,” said Susie.
Nicknamed “Polar Bear” shortly after arriving at Wisconsin, this cub has always been fiercely protective of his mama. For this reason he never wanted to share his mother’s story, fearing that it would invade her privacy. Susie, though, has encouraged Beau to open up about it.
“If it helps one woman to get out there and get help and get the medical care she needs, that’s what it’s all about,” said Susie.
And so he did. Beau wrote a blog post about the family’s experience for the NFL Players Association site.
When you’re younger, you think of your parents as these invincible, immortal beings. And at that age, you don’t really know what cancer is. You just know that it’s a big, scary thing. From my experience, I think my parents, and my mom especially, really tried to shelter us from how bad it was. They didn’t really want us to be scared or worried. That must have been hard for them, and pretty brave on their part.
He presented his writing to his mom during her birthday dinner back on October 17.
“She was pretty emotional,” Beau remembers.
He has also taken an active role through the team. The Eagles held an event at the Linc prior to the Rams game for Breast Cancer Awareness month. He and Sanchez spent the day with some families whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. They painted chairs pink to form a ribbon in the stands and at the end of the day, presented the families with tickets to the game.
“Looking back,” he wrote, “I would have liked to tell them my story a little bit more so I could have said, ‘I know it’s scary, I know how things are right now, but it worked out okay for me and my family.’ ”