CINCINNATI — For Bengals super fan Melissa Lohmiller, her first memory of being a Bengals fan is a fond one.
“The earliest memory I have is ’89 when they were headed to the Super Bowl and begging my dad to buy me an Ickey Woods shuffle T-shirt,” Lohmiller said.
Now, more than 30 years later she’ll be sporting a different look for the big game: Orange and black stripes dyed into what’s left of her hair. Lohmiller is currently battling stage two breast cancer.
“It kind of started off as basically a tease. My girlfriend and I were going back and forth and she said 'if the Bengals make it to the Super Bowl, let’s dye your head orange and black,'” she said. “Then it was like 'alright we’re doing this.' I couldn’t be prouder to support the team.”
Lohmiller said the team has been a life line for her since the start of her battle. She was diagnosed with cancer in October and had to take a leave of absence from her job as a Cincinnati Public Schools teacher. She said weekly Sunday wins by the Bengals have helped make her chemotherapy treatments just a little bit easier.
“It was nice to be able to watch a game on Sunday and see us on a win and then I have chemo every Monday. It made chemo just a little bit easier to endure on Monday,” she said. “Being that I am no longer working and being a school teacher and not being in the classroom and missing that time with the students, it’s discouraging. So being able to have something else to focus on, it’s really taken my mind off the heartaches and the debilitating aspects of the cancer.”
Lohmiller’s nephew CJ Lohmiller posted her story on Twitter, reaching out to Colt’s team owner Jim Irsay, who has been giving away tickets to the Super Bowl to various Bengals fans.
One week away and I found the biggest #Whodey fan in the city.— CJ Lohmiller™ (@lohmillerconnor) February 6, 2022
This is my Aunt Missy, a 20 year Cincinnati Public School teacher fighting breast cancer.
But she found her own way to support her Cincinnati Bengals.
Someone help send her to LA! @Bengals @JimIrsay @Enquirer pic.twitter.com/LXFiZGigKd
Irsay didn’t answer, at least not yet. But, Lohmiller said she’s gotten an outpouring of support from other people currently fighting cancer, as well as cancer survivors.
“It’s just been very humbling to know there’s a network of support out there. That means a lot. And then to have everybody tell their stories and be as supportive as they are and what I’m doing with my hair they just think it’s awesome,” she said.
Another source of support has been her husband Scott Lohmiller, who is a cancer survivor himself and a lifelong Bengals fan.
“20 years ago I had cancer, it was something unexpected. I was 25 years old,” he said. “There’s bad times and there’s bad days. Going through that with her and experiencing that journey and to know that there’s hopefully something better on the other side, and some of that hope does come from the Cincinnati Bengals.”
For now, the two plan to watch the game at home with a small group of friends and family, cheering both Melissa and the Bengals on to a big win.
“Hopefully in August we’ll be on beach somewhere. Hopefully with a picture of the Lombardi trophy,” said Scott.
What's Joe Burrow's cigar of choice? Tri-State cigar shop owner discusses business boost thanks to Bengals
No Fan Left Behind: Bengals fan hopes to represent those who aren't here to see Super Bowl LVI