You’ve seen the pink that graces the gridiron, sidelines and baseball diamonds in the month of October every year to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But for players at Mizzou, wearing pink has a meaning that is much closer to home.
Meet the Mizzou Cheer Coach Suzy Thompson. She’s your all-around family driven individual who is a real pleasure to be around. To members of the team, she’s more like a member of the family as she’s always full of smiles and warm hugs.
But Suzy got some of the most challenging news of her life five years ago. That’s when she went to see her doctor with what she thought would be a routine mammogram. She was informed that there was a lump that doctors believed was cancerous.
“It took me a while to be able to say ‘cancer’,” Thompson said.
After former Mizzou standout Jeremy Maclin scored his first two NFL touchdowns, he sent his pink gloves that he caught the passes with in the mail to Thompson, with a personal message written to her. She needed all the encouragement she could get; doctors said she might not live another five years.
But quitting simply wasn’t an option for Thompson.
“I finished chemo, lost my hair and sat days and didn’t think I’d be able to see the flowers in the spring,” Thompson said. “After chemo I started radiation, I had 36 days. I took my last day of radiation the day we left for our national competition. I didn’t miss a day because I knew I couldn’t. I wanted to make sure I could get on that bus.”
Senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington was reminded of her caring nature and said, “She’s the type of person that would give you the coat off her back.” Fellow receiver Marcus Lucas echoed the sentiment and said, “She makes you feel like you’re family. Everyone is family to her.”
So during Mizzou’s victory over Florida, when players had the opportunity to write the name of someone on their pink armbands to dedicate the game to, I didn’t take long to think of someone close to home.
“Marcus said he was going to write ‘Coach Suzy’ on his,” Washington said.
“You just can’t describe in words what it means the relationship and the personal bond with these kids,” Thompson said of the team. “They’re great kids. They’re just the cream of the crop. People are missing out by not knowing them off of the field.”
Thompson’s battle with cancer is ongoing, as she has never been diagnosed as cancer-free. “I don’t know that I ever will be,” she said, “but I’ll always battle it.”
To most of us, seeing pink in October might not mean much. It might remind us of the person we know or knew that had a battle with cancer. But to Suzy Thompson and the Mizzou Tigers, it means so much more than just a color.
“It might not mean something to you, and you might not think much about it—putting on pink—but it means so much to someone who is still battling,” Thompson says.