Antoine Bethea always takes notice when the calendar turns to October.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a nationwide movement and a staple of every NFL season. For Bethea, it's a chance to honor some of the bravest women that he's come across during his 11-year career.
The San Francisco 49ers safety goes out of his way to meet and interact with breast cancer survivors and those who are still battling the disease. The illness has crept into Bethea's personal life as well. His mother-in-law passed away a few years back due to breast cancer.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the 49ers support all who have fought & continue to fight breast cancer. We celebrate and honor the strength & courage of all those affected. Share your message with #BCAStrong.
Just last year, his own mother was diagnosed.
"It really hit home, just seeing her go through it," Bethea said. "My mom's a fighter, she came through and she beat it."
The positive outcome doesn't diminish his traumatic memories of finding out that a loved one had breast cancer.
"I remember the phone call. It hit me tough," Bethea recalled. "I was hurt. But I had to be strong for her. My mom's a fighter; she's been through a lot in her life. Day-by-day, I'd just call her and be there for her, just being a support system."
There is a lot to be learned from those who fight the disease, no matter the result of the life-and-death bout. The courage displayed by woman around the world on a daily basis provides evidence that there is no limit to what the human spirit can achieve.
"My hat is off to them," Bethea. "Whatever treatment they decide to go through, it takes toll on the body. I'm sure mentally it takes a toll. It takes a toll on the family. My prayers go out to anyone going through that right now."
So what would the safety's advice be to someone who was recently diagnosed?
"Stay strong. You can get through it," Bethea said. "You'll have some good days. You'll have some bad days. I've seen that (firsthand) with my mother. You've got to believe and stay strong."
And then to the loved ones of those beginning their fight against the disease:
"You have to stay strong as well and be that support system that you know they need," Bethea said.
49ers Pro-Bowl safety Antoine Bethea hosted a celebrity softball game with teammates and friends to benefit the 2nd Harvest Food Bank.
Over the course of the next month, each NFL franchise will host a game dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness. The 49ers will play their BCA game on Oct. 23 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's® Stadium.
On that Sunday, players will be decked out in pink gear, from cleats to gloves to sweatbands. The familiar breast cancer ribbon, a pink symbol of hope for a cure, will be on full display.
It's one of Bethea's favorite moments of the season.
"We'll have some breast cancer survivors on the field," Bethea said. "Having them out there makes it a special day. We want to salute them for all they've been through."
Bethea is taking his support for Breast Cancer Awareness a step further. On his website, www.antoinebethea.com, the safety is selling BCA-themed t-shirts along with his signature logo. One of the shirts reads, "Be Strong." Another has, "Tackle Breast Cancer."
Proceeds from the apparel will go to Bethea's "Safe Coverage Foundation," where he will in turn make a donation to a local facility dedicated to breast cancer research.
"Me, having this platform, (I want to) give back to the women who are either fighting it, have beaten it, or whatever the case may be," Bethea said. "I'm just trying to do my part."