CLEVELAND — Tom Seipel, the lifelong Cleveland Browns fan who is battling cancer in hospice, shared his game-day experience after fans and Emily Mayfield came together to get him to at least one last game.
While working as a missionary, pastor, and high school teacher in Nicaragua three years ago, Seipel, an Ohio native, learned that he had kidney cancer.
Three years later, Seipel has gone through numerous treatments and tried different medications to fight cancer, but two weeks ago he received some devastating news—he was being placed in hospice.
Seipel posted a goodbye to his fellow Browns fans on the online forum Reddit, which prompted an outpouring of love from fans, as well as a video of support from Baker Mayfield.
Thanks to an effort by the Dawgs of War podcast and Szabo Apparel, Browns fans have raised more than $25,000 for Seipel.
Some of the funds went towards flying Seipel and his father to Cleveland from Georgia to watch the Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon.
Emily Mayfield, wife of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, had reached out and offered Seipel a spot in her suite to give him a warm place to watch the game. Seipel met with Emily, although being a tried and true Browns fan watched it all outside anyway.
“They made fun of me a bit, in a good way, because they were like ‘You know guys, the only person who never left the outside seat during the whole game was Tom, the guy who’s sick. We all went inside to get stuff or go to the bathroom but he’s out there freezing his tush because he does not want to miss a second of the game,’” Seipel said.
Seipel spent the day with Emily, who gave him another surprise after the Browns won.
“She stayed around for 10 minutes saying byes to people and before Baker even had his jersey off he called his wife, probably to get his congratulations from her,” Seipel said. “She had him on Facetime and she turned the phone to me and showed me.”
Seipel couldn’t contain his excitement when he saw Baker Mayfield on the video call, but that wasn’t the end of the surprises. Twenty minutes later, Seipel was in for another major shock.
“Met Emily at some elevator and before you know it I’m in the parking lot and here comes Baker and he’s jumping up and down and comes and gives me a huge hug as I’m sitting in my wheelchair and he was all excited and pumped,” Seipel said.
Seipel and Baker Mayfield chatted it up about the game for a bit before Seipel prepared to head back to his hotel.
As Seipel and his group attempted to order an Uber, they realized there were none available at the time, so Baker Mayfield gave Seipel another surprise.
“‘You know what, why don’t I just take you, you hop in the car with me’” Seipel said Baker Mayfield offered. “We had a wonderful conversation, we piled in and it was amazing.”
Seipel’s story has been shared far and wide, which is one reason he was able to have such an amazing experience at Sunday’s game, but he said the most important thing to him is the GoFundMe donations that will be given to his family to cover medical bills and help them after he passes.
“I never thought it would get the attention it’s received,” Seipel said. “I knew that at some point when this is all over and I’m no longer here that my wife and my daughter will probably be going back to Nicaragua and starting over from nothing. Even the amount of money I put on my original GoFundMe, that’s not to really start over, that's just to get a couple of months. Anything would help and then I saw all of a sudden it just started blowing up.
“When you’re supposed to protect your family and take care of them and you’re in a situation you don't know if you’re going to be able to or how it was just really important and really cool to see people stepping up and I feel a lot more prepared for what might come for my family and it should be a little bit easier with the help that people have been donation. That was awesome and totally unexpected.”
Seipel said that the entire experience was a dream come true.
“You couldn’t have asked for a more storybook ending,” Seipel said.
As Seipel continues to cheer on his football team, he’s doing so with his daughter, who is becoming a passionate Browns fan herself.
“She loves the Browns,” Seipel said. “But the message I want to leave behind [for her] is: life is about love. I hope she learns that from me.”