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Putting on a Game Face to Tackle Cancer

Derrick Dockery and his wife, Emma (left), pose with cancer survivor Margaret Walke. (Photo by Ned Dishman)

Tanya Snyder always kept a low profile: The wife of Redskins owner Dan Snyder hasn't had much of a public persona, hardly ever got in front of a microphone.

But that was before she got breast cancer. Tanya Snyder, 47, just agreed to become an NFL national spokeswoman, talking up the cause to football fans. "I have to speak out about this through the NFL and reach as many people as possible," she said Tuesday at a luncheon for cancer patients at Redskins Park. "It's a great opportunity."

Tanya Snyder talks to a cancer survivor on Tuesday. (Photo by Ned Dishman)

The elegant blonde received the diagnosis last year, five years after her mother battled the disease and two months after her own annual mammogram came back normal. Snyder said she found an undetected lump ("I just knew something was wrong") and persisted until doctors found Stage 1 cancer. After multiple surgeries, Snyder said she's "as healthy as I've ever been." Her message: "Pay attention to yourself. Put yourself on the calendar. This is something that's treatable."

Snyder spent the day with 20 local women fighting breast cancer who were invited for pampering -- lunch with players and wives, and gifts of wigs, makeup and jeans. "Today is about you," said guard Derrick Dockery, who hosted the event on the team's day off with wife Emma and tight end Chris Cooley and his wife, Christy.

Dockery's mom, Sheila, is a breast cancer survivor, his mother-in-law died from the disease, and Cooley's mom, Nancy, received her diagnosis last year. When her hair began falling out from chemo treatments, she asked Cooley to buzz the rest. "It was really emotional," he told us. "It made it more real than it already was." After a double mastectomy, she's in remission and doing well, he said.

To raise awareness, Tanya Snyder has asked players to wear something pink for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. (Cooley will sport pink shoes and gloves.) The ladies at the luncheon were surprised with tickets and pink-and-burgundy jerseys. They'll appear on FedEx Field as the players emerge for introductions before the crowd.

"If you want to draw red-zone plays and leave them on the board..." Cooley joked to his guests. "Have a blast."

By The Reliable Source  |  September 30, 2009; 1:02 AM ET
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