GRATERFORD >> Cancer has no regard for rules. It has no regard for life’s trails and trials. It shows no mercy.
Perkiomen Valley’s Chris Jimenez and his mother, Jaime Kline, are all too aware of it.
It hasn’t been easy and it isn’t getting easier. Kline has battled breast cancer for the last six years, beating it twice before her latest recurrence was diagnosed on July 29.
Watching his mother navigate through life’s mine fields as a single mother working full-time to support her three children, Chris and younger siblings Carlie and Josh, for the last six years has offered one lasting truth to the Vikings’ standout senior lineman.
“She’s a superhero,” he described of his mother. “I don’t know how she does what she does.”
Kline’s most recent diagnosis – Stage 4 breast cancer, which has spread to her liver and chest wall – came one day before Jimenez verbally committed to Temple University.
“Last year, she was obviously upset,” Jimenez said. “Our family just split up, which was pretty rough on her. She went from being a stay-at-home mom, taking care of four kids at one time, one with special needs and one with ADHD, to getting a full-time job and buying a new house for us. Once she found out her cancer came back, fighting that became a full-time thing.
“Anymore, her health is declining. She has her days where she’s really upset and doesn’t feel well and needs to sleep a lot, which is understandable. Then she has her others where she’s ready and raring to go. It’s day-by-day depending on how her body reacts to her treatments, but she’s been fighting through it and doing what she needs to do to be there for us, which is awesome.”
The information has been tough to process and tough to slog through day-to-day. Yet, Jimenez and his mother do so. Kline has leaned on her Christian faith in looking toward Jesus for a full healing as well as allowing the right doctors to come into her life to win the fight.
Jimenez has leaned on football.
At 6-3, 255 pounds, Jimenez hasn’t always had the physique of a Titan. Last season, the lineman weighed 215 pounds, and despite gaining some interest from local colleges and universities, knew he had to bulk up. A workout regimen led by his former bodybuilding father and a 9,000-calorie diet ballooned Jimenez up 40 pounds throughout the spring and summer, where he was able to impress Temple and head coach Matt Rhule (who made an appearance to the Vikings’ practice Wednesday afternoon) enough during the last Senior Showcase to earn a full ride next fall. He committed one day after learning of his mother’s recurrence.
“The day before I was supposed to go down to Temple, my mom wasn’t sure if she was going to come with me because she didn’t know if she had to start her treatment and stuff like that,” Jimenez said. “The pastor from my church came down to talk to us and he told my mom that, ‘You don’t know how much time you’re guaranteed, you just need to be there for your kids.’
Mother and son were there together when they were invited into the Owls’ head coach’s office.
“I was called up to coach Rhule’s office and coach E.J. (Barthel) was there and they told me that they were going to offer me a full ride. I wasn’t expecting it at all. Me and her, it was one of those times where it was so special. Just to know that we got really, really bad news the day before, and then received news like that the day after. It was absolutely crazy but it was awesome at the same time. We were just trying to move forward from that point on.”
His play has spoken volumes during his senior season. A protector of quarterback Stephen Sturm and a key cog to a highly-successful offensive line, Jimenez has done for the team what he has done for his family — offered support.
Now, as the Vikings head into the quarterfinals of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs, Jimenez gets to enjoy the playoffs just a few months after leaving the basketball team two games prior to the PAC tournament to offer support to his mom and family.
“Bills were really tight and I told my mom that I’d take on that helping role,” Jimenez said. “I wasn’t going to be able to be a full-time provider but I definitely helped her out and was able to contribute to groceries and bills when she needed it. It was really, really rough for me. Basketball was really all I ever knew so having to tell your coach when you’re in a position to be getting more time on varsity and getting to a championship game and getting to districts that you have to step away from your team because of family issues, it’s definitely hard. But at the end of the day, I just did what I had to do.”
Now, he will do what he needs to do to help the Vikings extend their season, with his biggest fan watching.
“This is my escape,” Jimenez said. “I do have a lot of emotion that I don’t get out other than hitting people. This is a motivating factor in my life. From this point on, they don’t really know how much time she has. She can be guaranteed years, or a couple of months. I see that things are coming my way, I’m able to be blessed enough to get a full ride from a Division 1 school. At this point I only see it getting better. I get a free education out of it, and if I can get to the NFL one day, that would be awesome. I’d be able to take care of her and the rest of my family.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” Jimenez said. “This is going to sound really stereotypical but you hear it in football as well that you’re not guaranteed a next down, you’re not guaranteed a next play. In this case, it came out of nowhere again. Watching her fight through that, watching her body deteriorate and her hair fall out, that really opened up my eyes to show me that life isn’t guaranteed. I’m not guaranteed tomorrow. That brought me a lot closer to my mom and the rest of my family because at the end of the day, you have your friends, you have your brothers from football, your community and your coaches, but you really just have your family. No matter what, your family will have your back.”
* * *
Turning Point >> Downingtown East (9-2) presents the Vikings with another 1,000 yard rusher in Dan Liaudaitis. Liaudaitis, a 5-11, 195-pound senior, has rushed for 1,142 yards and 13 touchdowns, good for second best in the Ches-Mont League. Credit that to an offensive line that averages 250 pounds across the board.
“They are a physical, power-run football team,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist said. “Their offensive line is large and strong and their defense is disciplined and well-coached and they run to the ball aggressively.
“We must play sound defense and force some negative plays. We must take advantage when they do throw and we must score efficiently to force them out of their ground and pound run game.”
Rain, rain, go away? >> The rain forced the Vikings inside on Wednesday. Any problem for them? According to Heist, no.
“It’s Week 12,” Heist said. “Mental preparation is the most important aspect of winning playoff football at this point in my opinion. We need to play defense how we played defense against Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove in the second half. I’m looking for our playmakers on offense to seize opportunities when the ball comes their way and I’m looking for our senior quarterback to play how I know he is capable of playing and has been playing all season.”
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