These ladies give ‘fight like a girl’ a whole new meaning because they didn’t just fight, they won.
On Oct. 3rd, the Tonawanda Lady Warriors soccer program held their 6th annual Breast Cancer Survivors Night game when they took on Springville in an ECIC IV match up.
In a ceremony held in between the JV and varsity games, survivors were escorted to the field by the varsity Lady Warriors as the stories of their battle, and survival, were read over the P.A.
A Lady Warriors tradition, this night goes beyond the playing field and teaches players about life outside their own world. “It kind of adds to the whole (fight) like a girl thing,” Tonawanda coach Angela Tolsma said with a smile.
“You see just how many people can beat it and live happy lives and move on. I think it’s a great message to the girls to see so many women go through this, beat it, and come out and live happy normal lives. Because God forbid, anyone they know, or themselves personally, have to go through that battle they can look back and see how many survivors there are-just in the City of Tonawanda.”
Members of the Lady Warriors JV team and both Springville squads formed two rows for the survivors to walk between as they made their way to the field. In all, the night paid tribute to eight women. Even though they all had separate stories, the fact that these women never gave up and won their battles, was the common thread that binds them as one and serves as an inspiration for everybody that was in Clinton H. Small Stadium.
Tonawanda varsity player Katie Snyder escorted her grandmother, Karen Saltal, a 16-year survivor, and her aunt Patti Hanes, a 24-year survivor onto the field during the ceremony.
“It’s amazing. I’m so glad they’re still alive. My aunt she has a (breathing apparatus) now, she has such a hard time (trying) to walk, but it makes me so happy that she is still alive and going,” said Snyder.
“My grandma is one of the most inspirational people I know. She helps me through everything and she is so knowledgeable. Having them in my life is great.”
In addition to Hanes and Saltal, other honorees were Diane Cameron, Katrina Zambron, Joan Scheuster, Michelle Raimondo and Tonawanda’s oldest cancer survivor, 85 year old Flossie Fudella, who has been cancer free for 44 years and has taken part in all six breast cancer night game ceremonies. Lynn Heiss, though unable to attend, was also acknowledged.
Not only does this night honor survivors, it shows the young girls of both soccer programs, and their mom’s in the stands, the importance of early detection that comes through self-examinations and getting regular check-ups with their doctor.
“That’s how I found out that I had it. It was in my family,” said survivor Diane Cameron, whose granddaughter Grace Stranahan used to play for the Lady Warriors.
“They sent me early for a mammogram. It was a routine mammogram and they told me if they hadn’t found it I would have never known until it was too late. I have two granddaughters and a daughter and I tell everybody to do it.”
Cameron added that while everyone knows of and has probably been touched by breast cancer in one way or another, seeing the survivors and hearing their stories truly puts a face on the disease and has an even stronger impact on the young ladies who are honoring them. Coach Tolsma said she also believes the message of fighting and beating breast cancer is a message that can transcend and teach every young lady who was part of this event that no matter what comes your way, you can beat it if you fight hard enough.
“I think it just hits close to home. Especially with young women growing up,” said Tolsma. “It really does the job on spreading awareness and letting them know it can happen at any age. It affects people of all ages. So I think it’s something that really resonates with them on a personal level.”
Most of all, it shows every young lady that if you do get diagnosed its not an automatic death sentence.
You can fight, but more importantly, you can win.
“It’s so inspiring,” Snyder said. “They’re all still living and they’re here today. Seeing (Flossie), 44 years. It’s phenomenal. There’s always hope. You’ve always got to believe there’s hope, no matter what.”
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