When an avid Green Bay Packers fan asked young Chicago Bears fan Miguel Reyes what he wanted to name the thing he disliked most in his life, the answer was immediate.
The 14-year-old Elkhart, Indiana, resident had only one name for the brain tumor that would soon require surgery. He named it Aaron Rodgers.
“We were having a party at his grandparents’ house as he was getting ready to go in for surgery,” said Peg Kelly, Reyes’ former teacher whom he now refers to as “Aunt Peg.” “It was innocent. I said, ‘You should name that,’ and right away he said ‘Aaron Rodgers.’
“It’s easier to go after something you want to beat. But it was more in fun.”
Reyes said he’s drawing strength from looking at his battle in the context of one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries.
“It’s inspired me, and it’s helping me, too,” Reyes said Tuesday. “I feel like he’s a big, strong quarterback and beats our Bears.
“So I’m going to beat him.”
Reyes was diagnosed with the Grade 3/Grade 4 tumor in early June 2014. The ensuing 15 months have been filled with chemotherapy -- including the eighth round, which began Tuesday -- proton radiation treatments and the surgery.
There have been moments, however, when Reyes’ love for the Bears provided some silver linings.
A nonprofit organization in Elkhart named Christ Inc. arranged for Reyes, his parents and grandparents to fly to Atlanta last year to watch the Bears take on the Falcons, and Reyes had a surprise visitor in his hotel room.
“I met Devin Hester,” Reyes said. “He’s my No. 1 all-time favorite player, but he wasn’t playing for the Bears. He really surprised me.”
Reyes named his German shepherd puppy Hester, and his mother, Christy Reyes, is hoping to get Hester trained to help her son deal with his illness, which has affected his vision.
“Miguel has no peripheral vision in either eye,” Christy said. “He bumps into people and things and walls, and he doesn’t see everything he’s supposed to be seeing.
“We want to get Hester trained to be another set of eyes, to nudge him when he’s about to bump into something. And maybe we can train her to see when seizures are coming and warn somebody. We’ve already met with one trainer.”
Former Bears safety Chris Conte, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, saw Reyes' pictures with Devin Hester and invited Reyes and his family the following week to Soldier Field to watch the Bears host the Miami Dolphins.
Reyes’ family, friends and the Elkhart community have raised money to help the teen, including a GoFundMe campaign to pay for Hester’s training. There’s also a “Mighty Miguel” Facebook page, and the Concord Community Schools teachers sold T-shirts, in the Bears’ orange and blue of course.
“I’m a huge Packers fan,” Kelly said. “I have to wall-to-wall Packers stuff.
“But even my Packers friends and I are saying, ‘Let’s beat Aaron Rodgers.’”
NFL loyalty has been replaced, for the moment, by support for one Bears fan who’s in the fight of his life.