Two teams, one cause

Gen­try, Green­land teams bring aware­ness to breast-cancer fight

Westside Eagle-Observer - - FRONT PAGE - CHIP SOUZA NWA Demo­crat-Gazette

GEN­TRY — Kristin Fer­gu­son had never pitched a soft­ball. She walked alone across the field and into the white chalk cir­cle around the pitch­ing rub­ber. In her right hand, she held a bright yel­low soft­ball.

She was ad­mit­tedly ner­vous be­cause she did not have time to prac­tice be­fore she walked on the field Tues­day af­ter­noon (April 3). Fer­gu­son just wanted the ball to reach its des­ti­na­tion with­out first hit­ting the ground.

“I found out we were do­ing this a cou­ple of weeks ago,” she said. “I haven’t re­ally had time to get ready for it.”

She peered in at the catcher, a fa­mil­iar face be­hind a steel mask, and let it fly.

Kristin Fer­gu­son has faced far more daunt­ing odds than toss­ing a soft­ball 40 feet. Two years ago she was di­ag­nosed with breast cancer at the age of 33.

A lit­tle more than a year after mul­ti­ple surg­eries and chemo­ther­apy treat­ments, on a windy, cold spring day, she stood in the mid­dle of a soft­ball field by her­self, but she was sur­rounded by more than 40 high school soft­ball play­ers, coaches and man­agers in a game dubbed “No One Fights Alone.”

When her pitch crossed home plate and smacked into the catch­ers’ mitt, she smiled. A few sec­onds later she em­braced the catcher, her daugh­ter Tay­lor Nor­man.

“Tay­lor told me to prac­tice while I was at work,” Kris­ten said after the ceremony. “But I work at a desk all day so I couldn’t prac­tice. I was a lit­tle wor­ried about it. I was just hop­ing I could get it there.”

A high school soft­ball game was the rea­son teams from Gen­try and Green­land came to­gether on this day, but the game it­self was sec­ondary to the cause, which was to heighten breast cancer aware­ness. Each player, coach and man­ager on both teams played in honor of — or, in some cases, in mem­ory of — a per­son who has been af­fected by breast cancer.

Gen­try won both games of Tues­day’s dou­ble­header, tak­ing game one, 6-0, and com­plet­ing the sweep with a 17-2 win in the sec­ond game.

Three cancer sur­vivors threw out cer­e­mo­nial first pitches prior to the game. Gen­try English teacher Alishia Ram­sey and Green­land coun­selor Mary Larkan also stepped into the pitch­ing cir­cle and fired strikes.

Alexis Droddy, a Gen­try se­nior, played in Ram­sey’s honor.

“She’s like one of us,” Droddy said. “We can talk to her about any­thing.”

Prior to the cer­e­mo­nial first pitches, Gen­try soft­ball coach

Paul Ernest, who or­ga­nized the event, gave some eye­open­ing sta­tis­tics re­lated to breast cancer. One in eight women in the United States will ex­pe­ri­ence breast cancer in her life­time. As women age, the risk be­comes higher. Fer­gu­son’s case proves that cancer does not dis­crim­i­nate when it comes to age.

Madi­son Fon­tenot is a se­nior at Green­land who has seen the ef­fects of breast cancer through both friends and fam­ily. Her former team­mate, Ash­lyn Stout, lost her mother, Lisa Stout, to breast cancer sev­eral years ago. Madi­son ded­i­cated Tues­day’s game to Lisa Stout.

Fon­tenot’s sis­ter and great-grand­mother also bat­tled the dis­ease. She knows that cancer is of­ten ge­netic.

“I’m a pretty strong con­tender for it due to my his­tory of it in my fam­ily,” she said. “It’s re­ally made my fam­ily more aware of it. They’ve been through it and they don’t want me to have to go through it. No­body wants to go through breast cancer.

“Just to hear the sta­tis­tics that one in eight women will get breast cancer, it sends chills down my body.”

Tay­lor Nor­man was in the sev­enth grade when Kristin got the call a few weeks after a rou­tine mam­mo­gram. Kristin had gone through a cou­ple of pre­vi­ous bouts with other forms of cancer, but noth­ing could pre­pare them for what was to come after the breast-cancer di­ag­no­sis.

“I re­ally didn’t un­der­stand it at the mo­ment she told me,” Tay­lor said. “I was shocked. I couldn’t even cry. My dad had to come in later and ex­plain ev­ery­thing to me. So I just broke down be­cause it hurt so bad.”

Kristin said her treat­ments be­gan about three weeks after the cancer was di­ag­nosed. The first chemo­ther­apy treat­ment lasted about 10 hours and in­cluded two dif­fer­ent kinds of chemo. Reg­u­lar treat­ments were ad­min­is­tered ev­ery other week for four and a half months, she said.

In ad­di­tion to the chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion treat­ments, Kristin had mul­ti­ple surg­eries, in­clud­ing a mas­tec­tomy and re­con­struc­tion. One of the last sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures took about 12 hours, Tay­lor said. She said she and her fa­ther, Jeremy Fer­gu­son, leaned on each other for strength and sup­port.

Prior to the cancer di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment, Tay­lor said her mom was always rar­ing to go and spent a lot of time play­ing with her and her younger brother.

“She acted a whole lot dif­fer­ent,” Tay­lor said. “She used to act a whole lot hap­pier but, ever since she’s had this chemo, she’s been down. She wasn’t able to have as much fun on fam­ily trips. She had to sleep a lot and have a lot of rest. She wasn’t able to act like her nor­mal self and it re­ally hit me and my dad. We just all tried to cope with her and make sure ev­ery­thing was OK.”

Kristin said there were days that just get­ting out of bed seemed al­most im­pos­si­ble. She con­tin­ued to work full time, tak­ing off for three days in the weeks she would get her treat­ments. She said she forced her­self to keep go­ing be­cause “I knew my chil­dren needed their mom.”

A year after her last treat­ment, she still suf­fers from the ef­fects that breast cancer and its ag­gres­sive treat­ments took on her body.

“I wake up ev­ery day tired,” she said. “My doc­tor told me that my im­mune sys­tem will prob­a­bly be in shock the rest of my life.”

Tay­lor said there were many dark days when she feared she might lose her mom to the dis­ease. Kristin’s fight and de­ter­mi­na­tion proved to be an in­spi­ra­tion to her daugh­ter.

“There were times that she was re­ally afraid be­cause she did not want to leave me and my brother and my dad alone with­out a mom or a wife. It re­ally scared her,” Tay­lor said. “The way she fought just made me re­al­ize how strong she is and how I want to grow up and be like her. She’s my role model.”

After Tues­day’s game, the two teams gath­ered for a group pic­ture. Spe­cial pink and white jer­seys were used in the game and the play­ers were given mark­ers to get as many au­to­graphs as they could from play­ers and the cancer sur­vivors who were at the game. The Sil­vey-Welch team of Crye-Leike spon­sored the breast­cancer aware­ness game and pur­chased jer­seys for both teams to wear dur­ing the dou­ble­header.

Fon­tenot, who had a hit in the first game, said she planned on putting her jersey in a shadow box as a keep­sake re­minder and more deeper mean­ing of the game be­sides who won and who lost.

“Yes, the game is kind of sec­ondary,” Fon­tenot said. “But our men­tal­ity is to play your hard­est for the per­son you are rep­re­sent­ing. Give it your all be­cause the per­son you are play­ing for to­day gave it her all. It’s not about us to­day, it’s about them.”

West­side Ea­gle Ob­server/RANDY MOLL

Kristin Fer­gu­son of Gen­try de­liv­ers a cer­e­mo­nial first pitch prior to the “No One Fights Alone” soft­ball game be­tween Gen­try and Green­land on April 3 in Gen­try. Fer­gu­son, a breast cancer sur­vivor, threw the pitch to her daugh­ter, fresh­man catcher...

West­side Ea­gle Ob­server/RANDY MOLL

Tay­lor Norman of Gen­try catches the cer­e­mo­nial first pitch thrown by her mother, Kristin Fer­gu­son, dur­ing the “No One Fights Alone” soft­ball game against Green­land. Fer­gu­son is a breast cancer sur­vivor and Tay­lor ded­i­cated the game to her mom.

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