Patriots’ Brandon Bolden Opens Up About 2018 Cancer Battle, Recovery

'I didn't think I was going to play another down in the NFL'


Dec 30, 2021

New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden revealed Thursday that he battled cancer after the 2017 season.

Bolden posted a series of photos from his surgery and recovery on Instagram with the caption: “F#*% CANCER.”

In a video conference with reporters Thursday afternoon, Bolden shared additional details about his cancer battle, which had not been previously publicized.

The 31-year-old said he was diagnosed with a form of carcinoma shortly after the Patriots’ Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in February 2018 and underwent surgery during the 2018 offseason. He initially feared his NFL career would be over.

“I really didn’t have a reason for (sharing the photos),” Bolden said. “I actually had made that video (Wednesday) night. I was just kind of going through pictures, just kind of reminding myself. That was back in 2018. I was diagnosed with cancer. … I got it removed in 2018 and still was cancer-free at the beginning of this season. I feel fine and everything else.

“It was just one of those moments where I was messing with my son and my little brother about this, I actually looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘I’ve got my full face back,’ and that’s what made me go through the pictures and everything else. Just to show, like, I had cancer and I didn’t think I was going to play another down in the NFL.

“And here I am three years, going on four years, after having the surgery and still working strong. It was kind of one of those inspirational type deals for me, because that took a lot. It was a lot of naysay from doctors and everything else, and then I am here to prove people wrong and grow and get stronger.”

Following the surgery, Bolden said, he “lost the majority of function on the right side of (his) face and continued to play.”

“It was just my face, it wasn’t the rest of my body so I was OK with it,” he said.

Bolden said most of his younger teammates were unaware of his cancer battle, and that some fellow Patriots veterans likely had forgotten about it.

“I don’t ever talk about it,” he said. “I rarely talk about it. It never stopped me from doing anything. It didn’t hinder me from anything. It was just one of those things me and my family dealt with and just kept pushing and kept everything as normal as possible.”

A popular locker room figure and favorite of head coach Bill Belichick, Bolden spent the 2018 season with the Miami Dolphins before returning to New England in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 campaign due to COVID-19 concerns.

Primarily a special teamer throughout his career, Bolden has taken on a much larger offensive role this season. He’s replaced James White — who suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 3 — as New England’s top third-down back, catching 37 passes for 364 yards and one touchdown and adding 176 rushing yards on 36 carries.

“The way he goes about things, his consistency, his unselfishness, his ability to do whatever the team needs him to do, play tough, when he’s banged up, play in tough situations and come through is really an inspiration for all of us,” Belichick said earlier this month. “He’s had a great year for us, and he’s really come through so many times, as he always has, when we’ve really needed him.”

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
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