Kelly Stafford, the wife of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, went viral on Sunday when she ran onto the field at SoFi Stadium to embrace her husband. Looking at the gorgeous couple it would seem like they had it all. But in October 2019, when her husband played for the Detroit Lions, Kelly penned a piece for ESPN, opening up about a terrifying brain tumor.
Kelly’s health scare didn’t begin with a diagnosis. It started some months before first doctor’s visit, when she suddenly felt lightheaded and dizzy after walking out of a massage parlor.
Kelly said she was so disoriented she called Matt to ask for a ride home.
Still, the quarterback’s wife didn’t think much of the episode until the symptoms returned a week later — this time while she was holding her then-infant daughter, Hunter.
“Matthew was obviously concerned,” she wrote for the sports news outlet.
“‘We can’t have this keep happening,’ he said. ‘We need to get you checked out.’ He figured I might be dealing with vertigo.”
There might have been other instances where she could recall losing her balance or feeling faint before her dizzy spell at the massage parlor. But as a mom of three who was younger than 30, Kelly said she “didn’t feel the urgency” to get a checkup until Matthew encouraged it.
Eventually, she submitted to battery of tests to satisfy him. She couldn’t have imagined what came next.
QB’s Wife Shares Brain Tumor Battle
When MRI results showed Kelly had a acoustic neuroma — “There was a tumor sitting on some of my cranial nerves,” she expained — and doctors said that she would need major surgery to remove it, the Staffords grew worried.
But “not at first,” Kelly recalled.
“At first, we didn’t have any idea of where this was going to go, and we just needed to figure out how to deal with it.”
Then, as time wore on and the gravity of the situation sunk in, Kelly said she began to fear for all the things she might have missed.
“What if this thing gets taken out and something goes wrong?” she remembered wondering. “What if something happens before that? My biggest fear is not being here, and not being here to raise my girls.”
She decided, after careful consideration with Matthew, to share her journey on social media. While the Staffords had had negative experiences online in the past — “Social media for us has been not such a great thing sometimes, considering my husband and his job as quarterback of the Detroit Lions,” she wrote for ESPN — fans embraced her courage and voiced their support when Kelly needed it most.
“The amount of letters that poured into the [Detroit Lions] facility — so many prayers, a lot of holy water — it was remarkable,” Kelly wrote. “Matthew joked that our house looked like a bootleg flower shop.”
With the support of the whole team behind her, Kelly underwent brain surgery in April 2019. She knew that when she woke up, there was a 50-percent chance she would lose her ability to hear, among other potential complications.
Kelly Stafford Announces Recovery
But not only was her hearing left intact — surgeons had successfully removed the tumor from her brain. After a few weeks of recovery at the hospital and months of physical therapy, Kelly wrote that she was finally starting to feel like her old self.
By April 2021, a few months after her husband was traded to Los Angeles, Kelly was ready to share the results of her most recent brain scan with her Instagram followers: two years after surgery, she was doing well.
Recalling their emotional on-field reunion Sunday, Kelly alluded to her journey to the New York Post when she said she and her husband had “been through a lot” the last couple years.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” she told the outlet Wednesday.
The Rams had started the fourth quarter with a 10-point deficit, but QB Stafford rallied the LA squad to put up 13 points in the final stretch of the game, claiming the NFC Championship title in a surprise, 20-17 finish.
Before his debut season in Los Angeles draws to a close, Matthew Stafford will get his first-ever chance to play on the biggest stage in all of American sports. It’s an emotional moment for any player and their family, which made the Staffords’ on-field hug all the more heartwarming.
But what viewers probably didn’t realize was that Kelly Stafford declared a victory of her own just a few seasons earlier: she had recovered from a brain tumor.
The Staffords will return to SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 13 at 3:30 p.m. local time to face off the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
“I’m just so f—king happy for him. He’s put so much work into this, not only this year but his entire life. So that moment is one I’ll never forget.”