Brandon Bolden is a two-time Super Bowl champion, has appeared in 145 games in the NFL, and is a well-respected leader in the New England Patriots’ locker room. He also is a cancer survivor, as was revealed this week.
Bolden was diagnosed with epidermoid carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, during the 2018 offseason. He had to undergo surgery and temporarily lost function on the right side of his face, but was able to recover and continue his career in pro football. Almost four years after his initial diagnosis he remains cancer-free.
Bolden’s journey happened out of the public eye, with the 31-year-old revealing his diagnosis for the first time on Thursday morning. Posting a series of photos with the caption “F#*% CANCER” on social media, Bolden initiated a conversation about his medical history.
“I was just kind of going through pictures, just kind of reminding myself. That was back in 2018. I was diagnosed with cancer,” he said during a media conference call later that day. “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 was like, ‘I got my full face back.’ That’s what made me go through the pictures. Just to show I had cancer and I did not think I was going to be able to play another down and here I am going on four years later after having surgery. I’m still working strong.”
The cancer diagnosis did not stop Bolden from having a productive season in 2018. He went on to appear in all 16 games for the Miami Dolphins — he had joined the team after getting released by the Patriots on roster cutdown day — and finished among the team leaders in special teams snaps and tackles.
Accomplishing all that was not an easy task, though, something Bolden admitted on Thursday.
“It was kind of one of those inspirational type deals for me, because that took a lot,” he said. “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.”
Bolden returned to the Patriots in 2019 and has added 31 more games to his career résumé. Returning this season after his Covid-19 opt-out, he has established himself as a core member of not just the team’s kicking game operation but offense as well: Bolden has gained a career-high 540 yards from scrimmage and scored one touchdown so far this season.
As far as his cancer diagnosis is concerned, he pointed out that he spoke with his teammates about it. However, some of the younger players on the roster were aware of it.
“I rarely talk about it,” Bolden said. “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.”