ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Wide-eyed with tears welling in the corners, Christine Barczak walks into Suite 124 in New Era Field. It’s a rainy night – the Saturday before the Bills game against the Oakland Raiders. The team will go on to win 34-14; even if they lost though, it would’ve been one of the best days for Christine.
The East Aurora native hasn’t been to a game in more than five years since being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
“Some of the side effects of the chemotherapy included not being able to be in large crowds because my immune system was so weak and being very susceptible to the cold so I couldn’t be outside long.”
She grew up a diehard fan, spending many Sundays both at the stadium and gathered around the TV with her family.
“It was going, going, going all week long and then on Sundays, that stopped and we’d all cheer for the Bills.”
After being diagnosed with cancer, she and her husband of 20 years, Andy, found solace on Sundays just like that.’
“I did the best I could to be the rock she needed,” said Andy.
“I feel like they’re one of the things that made me feel normal and sane during those hard times,” said Christine about watching the Bills during her treatments. “I was able to forget about what I was going through and take time to focus on something else.”
Now in remission, Christine is able to be in the elements and around crowds again. While browsing through the Bills page, she found a contest to stay the night and watch a game in the suites – it was thorugh a partnership between Airbnb and the Bills; for Christine, it was chance to say thanks to her husband and family members for standing by and supporting her through her battle.
“I felt like my story is not about me but my family.”
She submitted her story to the Bills – sharing her story, telling them about her battle, how she remained a steadfast fan throughout the ups and down, even after moving out of state for college. Upon being selected as the winner for the Suite Dreams at New Era Field contest, Christine had no idea what to expect.
When she walked in, she found Thurman Thomas waiting to greet her, ready to take her and Andy around the stadium and on a $1000 shopping spree at the Bills Store.
“Wow! This is incredible!” exclaimed the longtime Bills backer time and time again, while looking at details around the suite. “This is really a once in a lifetime opportunity.”