ARLINGTON, TX (KSLA) - Days before Thanksgiving, a 13-year-old boy from Texarkana, Ark., lost his mother to breast cancer. Joseph Looney was the youngest of 5 kids by Judy.
In the hours after his mother's death, a stranger helped Looney grieve. That stranger became a close friend to Looney. They both learned that day that they needed each other to cope with the same disease.
Tameika Sanders worked in hospice care and was called to the Looney's home to attend to the family and notify the funeral home of Judy's death.
"I knew before I arrived that she had already passed. The main thing was for me to comfort the family."
When Sanders noticed the young Looney grieving, she asked family if she could talk with him. The two stood beside each other as mere strangers and bonded instantly over their mutual love of the Dallas Cowboys.
"She asked me if I like them, and I said yes and we talked about them," said Looney.
Sanders asked him who his favorite player is, and soon their conversation became a comfort to them both.
"He was crying and I just wanted him to not cry."
Sanders reached out to the Dallas Cowboys and asked if Looney and his family could be a part of the Cowboys for the day. The family was invited to take part in Rally Day at AT&T Stadium.
Looney and his family were taken inside, introduced to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, took pictures with former players and toured the Cowboys locker room. No one in the family had ever been to AT&T Stadium and, of course, Sanders was part of the visit.
When she arrived to meet the family, Looney quickly rushed over and hugged and thanked her for what she had done. The trip was a distraction from what happened the weeks prior.
Judy lost her battle with breast cancer after being diagnosed last year.
Tiffany Purvis, the oldest of Judy's children, remembered how rapidly the disease took over her mother's body. "It was about September when I really realized how bad things were. She was discharged from the cancer treatment center in Tulsa and then sent home on hospice.
"We had two weeks with her once she was home. So it was very fast."
Yet in Judy's death a new friendship came to life. The entire family has become close with Sanders. But the bond between her and Looney is the strongest.
"I think about him every night. I worry about him."
When asked if she normally forms this kind of relationship with the people with whom she works, she said "no."
"Normally I deal with elderly people and the children are grown. This is my first time I've dealt with a child.
"He just touched my heart. It hurt. And then the thought of my mom. So he really touched my heart."
Looney touched her heart for good reason. Sanders recently found out her own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I think that's why I took it so personal. She's actually doing chemo right now."
Sanders said she now texts or talks to Looney every night and has plans to attend his baseball games in the spring.
"I love him. He's stuck with me forever."