Breast Cancer Awareness is something I’ve always loved supporting, especially as an athlete. It was big at my high school; like a big competition for the biggest and brightest pink attire/accessories. Breast Cancer Awareness is huge in the football world. However, as a female college basketball player, playing for a Nike sponsored team, we honor Breast Cancer Awareness a bit later in the year by participating in the Play4Kay initiative. For those who don’t know, this initiative was inspired by the Kay Yow Foundation, which was started by the late former NC State Head Coach, Kay Yow, in 2007. After a 22-year long on-and-off battle with breast cancer, Coach Yow passed in 2009. As stated on the Kay Yow Foundation’s website, the goal of the foundation is to support breast cancer research to find ways to extend the quality of life for those battling cancer, while also providing hope.
Play4Kay is the foundation’s largest fundraiser, uniting player, fans, and coaches to support something bigger than just basketball. Almost 10 years old now, many teams and organizations host Play4Kay fundraisers through games and events that allow their fans and communities to support them and this cause. This initiative allows members of the basketball community to play a part in the Kay Yow Cancer Fund by simply playing basketball, the game they love. One of the big draws in this initiative are the shirts. During the women’s college basketball season, Nike teams, will have a specific Play4Kay game where they wear Play4Kay shirts (usually pink) in honor of Coach Yow, and in solidarity with those battling cancer.
Over the years breast cancer has grown more and more important to me both as an athlete heavily involved through the Play4Kay initiative, but also as someone who recently lost their cousin (depicted left) to breast cancer.
Over the last 5 years I’ve gotten a firsthand look at death in general and how it affects people and those close to them. Watching loved ones slowly suffer through any type of illness is hard. In all honestly, because of the exposure to so much death as a young adult, I have a hard time hearing about death or even watching it depicted on tv. I’ve witnessed heart failure, multiple resuscitations, stroke, lung disintegration, lung failure, kidney failure, etc., but there was nothing like witnessing the way breast cancer breaks down a person mentally and physically and their family. Often, the person battling the cancer becomes unrecognizable. It’s extremely disheartening.
This is why things like Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Kay Yow foundation, and the Play4Kay initiative are so important. The fundraising, the events, the basketball games, all support making a better life, better chances of life, and hope for people battling breast cancer and their families.