By LIZ NEPORENT
Cathy Nichols and son Jason were front and center at the National Football League playoff game last Sunday to witness her beloved New England Patriots clinch a spot in this year’s Super Bowl.
The Fayette, Maine, resident, 59, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer just two days before the big game. She said it was the support of a close-knit community, and the generosity of the Patriots, that brought her to what she believed will be the last football game she will attend.
“My son and I are super fans and when I got the diagnosis, I told him we probably weren’t going to get to go to many more games,” Nichols told ABC News today. “Now, not only did I get to see them play, but I was at a playoff game; it was just unbelievable.”
Nichols’ worship of Tom Brady and all things Patriots is well known at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, Maine, where she works as a special education teacher. So when she confided in several work friends about her illness, they immediately contacted a local sportscaster, who, in turn, reached out to the Patriots.
By Friday night, a team representative had called Nichols to offer her two tickets in the owner’s box to the playoff game.
Despite her rollercoaster of a week, Nichols said she was touched by the outpouring from friends and strangers alike.
“It isn't just the tickets, they’re doing fund-raisers and I’m getting calls from students and athletes I coached more than 25 years ago,” the former cheerleader coach said.
At Sunday’s game she not only had the best seats in the house, she was given field passes so she could watch the pregame warm-ups. Team owner Robert Kraft even called down to the field to make sure she was having a good time, before she returned to the box.
Nichols said she knows an invite to the Super Bowl was in the works but she put a stop to it. Doctors believe the disease may have already spread from her pancreases to her liver, she said, and she may only have six months to live. She doesn't feel strong enough to make the trip to Arizona for the February game.
But Nichols said she isn't bitter. Far from it.
“I am a very fortunate woman to have all this support and it makes me determined to be here as long as I can,” she said. “But I've lived a good life and I want to focus on quality of life over quantity.”