Missouri women's basketball team touched by cancer

Friday, February 12, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 9:45 a.m. CST, Friday, February 12, 2010

COLUMBIA — Three players and a coach were lined up, waiting to tell their stories. The stories they wanted to tell were not about a game-winning shot or anything about basketball. The questions asked weren’t about their next opponent or what changes would be made in their game plan.

The stories they told showed how widespread the issue is. Breast cancer has touched many people throughout the world, including members of the Missouri women’s basketball team.

Of the stories they told, one was devastating, while the others showed the disease can be fought.

Missouri women's basketball players BreAnna Brock, Shakara Jones, Amanda Hanneman and Missouri coach Cindy Stein all shared stories about how breast cancer has affected their loved ones.

“Anybody that’s diagnosed with that, it’s traumatic for them, and it’s traumatic for their family because you just don’t know,” said Stein, whose mother and an aunt have been diagnosed with, but ultimately beat, breast cancer.

On Saturday, the Tigers play Nebraska at 1 p.m. at Mizzou Arena in the annual Pink Zone game, which raises awareness for the disease. This game, more than others, has a special meaning to the Missouri team and its families.

“It’s nice to have a big recognition for that disease and see that people actually care about it,” Brock said.

Just a few years ago, Brock’s aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Going through it was painful, not only for her aunt, but her family as well.

“It was a real struggle just watching her go through radiation, watching her be in pain, with burns and all that,” said Brock, whose aunt is in remission. “It changed everybody’s outlook on life. It made us realize how blessed we are.”

Most college freshman worry most about what party they are going to on a Friday night. But when Hanneman, now a Tigers senior, first came to MU she had much more to think about. In January of her freshman year, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It was so hard being here, the first time away from my family,” Hanneman said. “It was tough to deal with basketball, school and then what was going on back home. They tried not to tell me as much stuff.”

The experience caused Hanneman to get a small pink ribbon tattoo on her left wrist, a symbol for breast cancer awareness. It is a small reminder of what her mother has gone through.

Just like the stories Brock and Stein told, Hanneman’s story has been uplifting because her mother is also in remission. It is these types of stories that give hope to the hundreds of thousands of women who are diagnosed every year with breast cancer.

Hanneman remembers the disheartening feeling she felt during her freshman year when she didn’t see her mother in the stands because she was receiving treatment much of the time. That feeling made her sophomore year that much more meaningful.

“It was good to look up in the stands again and see them,” Hanneman said smiling.

Unfortunately, not all these stories end well.

Jones’ aunt died in 2008 after battling the disease for many years.

“It was a long process, and it was sad,” Jones said.

The experience has had an effect on how Jones looks at the game of basketball.

“Winning and losing always matters. But, I guess the heartache from winning and losing is not as bad when you have watched a family member that loved life suffer with something like that,” Jones said. “It makes you realize what you go through isn’t as bad as she went through.”

All of these stories clearly show how big of a problem breast cancer is. On Saturday, women across the country will be trying to raise money and awareness to fight the disease. However, most don’t need to be reminded of how big of an issue it is. The players realize that some things are more precious than a game.

“You dwell on so much in sports that you have to have a winning season and you can’t get down,” Hanneman said. “But you realize there are bigger things. Basketball is four years out of my life. My mom is my life.”

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