‘Super hero’ Hughes visits Regina woman diagnosed with breast cancer, leukemia

By: Cory Coleman, CBC Saskatchewan
Regina woman diagnosed with breast cancer, leukemia visited by her ‘super hero’ Charleston Hughes (CBC Saskatchewan)

Laurel Downey says she screamed out of happiness when Saskatchewan Roughriders player Charleston Hughes paid her a surprise visit. (Facebook/Cameco Connects)

Laurel Downey says the last four years have been a roller coaster for her and her family, but an unexpected visitor recently gave them a reason to celebrate.

Downey was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and says doctors treated her with the harshest form of chemotherapy available.

She also underwent a double mastectomy and radiation treatment.

The mother-of-three has been dealing with ongoing side effects and was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia as a result of her treatment. She says doctors discovered the leukemia while she was in the hospital to have breast reconstructive surgery.

She’s now taking medication to treat the leukemia, but she says it killed the bone marrow in her right femur so doctors had to replace it with a titanium rod.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” said Downey.

But a green and white glimmer of hope recently — and unexpectedly — arrived on her doorstep.

‘I just wish I had brushed my teeth’

Downey said her friend nominated her to be a recipient of the Cameco Touchdown for Dreams initiative.

She was then invited to attend two Saskatchewan Roughriders games. During one of those games she was able to go onto the field and stand next to the players.

“I just happened to get a high five from my favourite Rider, Charleston Hughes,” she said.

“I am such a huge fan.”

Little did she know, Hughes would soon pay her and her family a personal visit as part of the Cameco initiative.

Laurel Downey and Charleston Hughes pose for a photo doing Hughes’s signature on-field celebration.(Submitted by Laurel Downey)

Downey said she was having a rough day when Hughes was scheduled to arrive. She was sleeping when her husband, who knew Hughes was coming, woke her up and asked her to check her phone.

She received a text message from Jonathan Huntington, director of community investment with Cameco, who said he needed to come over to discuss an upcoming photo shoot.

She then rushed into the kitchen to tidy up when the front doorbell rang. When she opened the door she was greeted by none other than the Roughriders all-star defensive end.

“I screamed, my kids are freaking out, wondering what’s going on on… He let me hug him and he hugged me back, which was so special,” she said.

“We got to visit with him,” Downey said while holding back tears, “And had pictures taken with him and my family. It was pretty special and I haven’t stopped smiling since this happened.”

“I just wish I had brushed my teeth,” she said with a chuckle.

Charleston Hughes takes a photo with Laurel Downey and her family. (Submitted by Laurel Downey)

“It’s surreal to have your super hero show up to your house and be in your personal space,” she said.

Downey said Hughes also brought her a signed Roughriders jersey with his name and number on it.

“I don’t know the science behind it, but I’m pretty sure all the endorphins and happiness that’s running through my veins is only doing good for my body and my soul,” she said.

“It’s a dream, a dream come true.”