Cyndy Feasel - After The Cheering Stops
Former NFL wife shares her journey of loss in her book, “After the Cheering Stops.” Cyndy hopes that by raising awareness and educating others of the dangers of head trauma (CTE) that her experiences can help others understand the progression of CTE.
My Elite Network: What was your first impression of Grant, did you like him right away?
Cyndy Feasel: Well, in the book, “When the Cheering Stops,” the very first chapter talks about this. I try to always answer that because that's a huge piece of the story. Grant was an incredible man. As you know I would not have ever considered somebody that didn’t fit all the categories that I had ever hoped for. He was that person. He was what I call a “renaissance man” and that's a fancy word that really hit home with me personally. He was gifted, not only in just being super smart and academically talented, but, he was amazing. He loved music. He was crazy about everything from rock n roll to country. He taught himself to play the piano and the guitar. I mean this was a man that was a gambit of a lot of different things. He appreciated art and he appreciated athletic and he appreciated academia. There was nobody else in the world like him. You know it was a huge connection. I've dated a lot of different people but I had never connected with anybody on the level that I connected with Grant. He fulfilled all my needs. I needed somebody that could keep me in line because I'm an artsy person and he just kept more grounded.
My Elite Network: What are you doing now, work wise?
Cyndy Feasel: I am an Art teacher at a local public school. I love what I do and I do enjoy teaching art. I think I'm making a positive impact on children, so, that gives me a fulfilling desire. I love bringing awareness to CTE and I will continue to. I would love to think that someday I could be a public speaker. That would be fantastic and that's the dream and desire that I have. And I hope that someday that I would be able to do that. With social media, you can stay so connected and you can really promote a lot by just being right where you are.
My Elite Network:Since the publication of your book, have you had parents reach out to you asking for more information, or, to thank you for your sharing your story?
Cyndy Feasel: That happens on a weekly basis. I try to connect with every single person because I'm a people person. I'll give somebody 15 minutes of my day if I can give them hope. We stay connected through social media. I talk about what affected my wife which with football.
My Elite Network: Once you receive a head trauma, is it fixable?
Cyndy Feasel: In fact, it's not fixable. It’s a death sentence – and I want parents to translate that into whatever that means to them. I'm begging parents to listen and to do some research. If it's a repetitive head injury – it’s not just football - it can be a car accident, a battered wife, firing a weapon off your shoulder – any hit to the head can cause brain damage. If it's a repetitive hit to the head it can cause damage. We know that every athlete doesn't die of CTE.
My Elite Network: Did you see a progression of aggressive behavior and at-risk behaviors with your former husband, Grant?
Cyndy Feasel: It wasn’t identified to me because Grant and I were at such a disconnect. He started slowly unraveling what we had. And then of course he started using pills and alcohol to dull the pain. I had no idea that it had anything to do with the brain. It wasn't until after his death that I even knew about CTE.
My Elite Network: How did you decide to do an autopsy on his brain? Did you have to request an autopsy of the brain?
Cyndy Feasel: That's a two-part question. For the first part, Grant and I had been divorced for seven months before he died. Grant's brain went to Boston University to be autopsied. Fortunately, by doing that, we got some answers. For the other part of your question, it is a part of an autopsy, but you must ask for it. So, if your child dies from some sort of irrational reason, have the brain tested. It's a myth that it's just people from the NFL and the celebrity brain. It's everybody's.
My Elite Network: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Cyndy Feasel: I hope that I will be celebrating the fact that more and more parents are really listening to this. There are other sports that provide character building. I think that in the United States we're been misguided in thinking that our children can only get character building in football. There are so many other sports that allow children to be part of a group and being a part of the team. There are so many other things that can build character that aren't damaging your brain. I would love it if more kids would do track and field, golf or basketball. It’s not just a sport that can cause brain injury… you can ride a bike and get a concussion. There is scientific evidence that proves repetitive hits to the head causes brain damage. In five years, I would like to be celebrating the fact that more people are believing this and that less and less people are signing their kids up for a sport that will damage the brain.
My Elite Network: Do you think you will write, “After the Cheering Stops, Part Two?”
Cyndy Feasel: I don't know. I mean I have thought about it. My book really was my journal. Seven years prior to Grant’s death I started going to Christian therapy. Journaling was part of the recovery. So, we cleaned up my journal’s. The book is not for children…it is full of tears and a lot of prayers and scriptures and that God is the law. And I keep saying it over and over and in page after page that one of us was going to die. I didn't know who was going to die first. I mean I even thought that maybe it might be a good idea for it to be me. I mean when you get so desperate… and Grant and I both were in a desperate state because I didn't understand him and he didn't understand me.
My Elite Network: Do you have a motto that you live by?
Cyndy Feasel: Well, I would say that if it wasn't for God I wouldn’t be here. I know that the devil had a hand in taking our family apart. I lost a lot. I wake up in the morning and I pray to God that he can give me the strength to keep going. I can tell you this, when I meet Grant in1985 the script was already in place and God knew that I could handle what was going to happen. With all the turbulence that happened he knew that I could come out from underneath this and I could still be standing. And to be able to talk about it and to help somebody else going through the same thing. That’s what l I did. That's what drives me. Otherwise I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning.
My Elite Network: I’m curious, what do you believe is purpose? What motivates you?
Cyndy Feasel: I do think that's why God put me in this. I know I must keep going up that mountain. I don't know what that looks like, but, I see myself being a notch higher this year than I was last year. I want to stand on the mountaintop one day and feel like that I've accomplished what my destiny is. I'm a believer and so again I believe that God knew all of this when I was born. He knew that this was my destiny. God has that big picture…it just blows my mind that you know even as a baby God already knew.
My Elite Network: What value do you believe you bring to others?
Cyndy Feasel: For people to see that I truly believe and I want to give people hope. I think that especially when I wasn’t in that journey with Christ, I didn't see a lot of hope. I didn't feel a lot of hope. I lost my way on every angle. I keep looking towards the light. I want to give people hope that you can continue to see the light, even when things get so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face. And I've been there. And there's still hope. You know I pinch myself on the arm and say this is really you. You really did live through this. You made it out. Grant's not here anymore. You can be here for him. He was not a risk taker. He wasn't somebody that was trying to be macho at all costs. Grant was a smart player. And he wants me to be doing this. There is no doubt in my mind that he would be thinking, “oh please keep telling people.” He doesn’t want anybody else's child to be hurt. I think he would want his legacy to be about helping children. I think that it all has to do with all the last thing he said to me, “If I’d only known that what I loved the most would end up killing me and taking everything I loved, I would have never done it.” He is gone forever. But, it is up to me to keep his memory alive and educate everyone on CTE and brain injuries.