Julienne Gede Edwards has sung the national anthem many times before, but never in a stadium, and never with an oxygen tank by her side.
Edwards has Stage IV colon cancer. She's battled it since July of 2015, when she was first diagnosed at just 26 years old. It's taken an aggressive turn recently, but it won't stop her from singing at tonight's preseason game at M& Bank Stadium.
"I'm a little nervous," Edwards said. "But I'm also really excited; it's an honor to be asked."
Edwards is a Peabody Conservatory graduate who began her career as an associate attorney. Her diagnosis derailed those career aspirations and she instead used her skills to launch herself into advocacy with Fight Colorectal Cancer.
She helps push for better policies and to support research, education and awareness for all those touched by colorectal cancer. They focus on getting the latest boots-on-the-ground research into the hands of lawmakers and making sure the public knows to advocate for their own health so symptoms aren't overlooked.
This is especially important because Edwards said colorectal cancer is affecting younger populations than before. Generally, it's seen as a disease that people don't have to worry about until beyond 40 years old, but that's not the case anymore.
The group recently lost a patient who was just 18 years old, and there's currently an 11-year-old with Stage IV cancer. Edwards is proof herself.
"We usually don't think of it as something for young adults or as pediatric at all, but we're seeing these rising rates in populations where we've never seen them before," Edwards said.
Edwards, a Baltimore County native, has been in a clinical treatment since November of last year at Johns Hopkins, but the cancer has spread into the pathways of her lungs. She was originally slated to sing in October during the "Crucial Catch" campaign, but has been moved up.
"It carries a grim prognosis, and I'll be happy to make it to another year," Edwards said.
Edwards, who made contact with the Ravens through Head Coach John Harbaugh, is bringing lots of family, friends and members of Fight Colorectal Cancer with her to the game. Be sure to give her a big cheer.
Italian (American) Football Team Will Play During Halftime
The Ravens will also welcome international visitors to M&T Bank Stadium, as Italy's U15 Flag Football champions, the Skorpions, will play during halftime.
As part of a self-funded trip, 14 kids and four coaches will take the field to show that the game is spreading across the Atlantic – and not just in the United Kingdom.
"This is a dream that comes true for all of us," Skorpions Varese Coach Enzo Petrillo said. "This experience will accompany both the kids and our whole staff for the rest of their lives.
"For the kids, it will represent a chance to finally completely fall in love with this sport – even more than what they are now. For the coaches and the rest of the staff, this will be a push to keep working with passion and to give their all for this growing sport in Italy."
Before the Skorpions' big game last year, Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams and cornerback Marlon Humphrey sent the team good luck/pump-up videos. The team is hoping to connect with them before tonight's game.
"We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Ravens organization for this 'gift' and opportunity that they gave us, with the hope that this initiative will be an important boost for our team and for the Italian American football movement," Pertrillo said.