Best of 2023: ‘Metastatic Mafia’ spends day at Bills Camp and meets Josh Allen

Metastatic Mafia

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – We’re taking a look back at some of our most memorable stories of 2023. In August, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke got to spend the day at St. John Fisher University with a group of women who share a close but heartbreaking bond. While they’re all loyal Bills fans, that’s not what originally brought them together. 

(Original Story Aired 8/1/2023):  Among the sea of fans in the stands wearing red and blue were five friends who were at camp for the first time. They got their airbrush tattoos, hit up all the games at the entrance and were decked out in their finest Bills gear. 

The women love the game of football and, more specifically, the Buffalo Bills. “We smile, we laugh and the Bills bring us a lot of smiles,” says Elaine Caroline Vanatta. That joy is crucial because Vanatta, along with friends Robin, Lori, Nancy, and Kelly, are living with Stage 4 terminal cancer.

They met in a support group sponsored by the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester and started talking about their love for the Buffalo Bills. They now call themselves the “Metastatic Mafia.”

“When we’re together, we’re together and it’s just an amazing connection and we don’t think about anything except right here, right now… whatever we’re doing,” Lori McJury says. 

There were others in the group. “People we’ve lost this year and before then… they’ll always be with us, and I feel it’s enhanced our lives. These people we’ve met to see how they’ve navigated through this beast we call metastatic cancer,” Vanatta says. 

The women don’t know how much time they have left so, they’re doing what they love and having fun while they’re at it. 

Greg Connors of Connors & Ferris, the title sponsor of Bills camp, was introduced to the “Metastatic Mafia” by News10NBC during their visit and was inspired by their story and strength. Connors invited the friends to a reserved area where they could get a closer look at the players. 

As the Buffalo Bills came off the practice field, the “Metastatic Mafia” was right there to greet them.  Quarterback Josh Allen was pulled away for a radio interview but promised the ladies he would be back. He returned a short time later to say hello, shake hands and sign autographs for the women.

There are good days and bad days with terminal cancer. Tuesday was one of the good ones.

“He just smiled and was just so… everything that you would imagine him to be,” Vanatta says of their emotional encounter with Josh Allen. “That’s who he is, we’re all kids at heart but it was just so gentle and kind for him to come over today, I’ll never forget it.”

Robin Finley agrees. “It’s absolutely amazing, this is such a gift… I can’t believe it. One of the best days really,” she tells News10NBC.