Redhawks Go Pink

PinkUpIn 2002 Taylor Masterson, like any other third grader, loved playing sports, had a favorite stuffed animal and enjoyed making art projects; she was learning multiplication and studying the solar system. But, there was one thing Taylor learned about that was different than her classmates: breast cancer. Taylor’s mom was diagnosed, and, suddenly, math and art weren’t such challenging concepts for the third grader to understand.

“My dad sat me, my brother and my sister down and told us our mom was going to be sick for a little while, but it wasn’t because of the cancer; it was because of the cure,” says Taylor.

Taylor’s mother, Christine, was performing a self-breast exam when she felt a suspicious lump. After visiting the doctor and running tests, Christine discovered she had stage three breast cancer.

“Early detection awareness is the key,” says Cindy Gannon, senior associate director of athletics and senior woman’s administrator at Southeast Missouri State University.

Gannon lost her mother in July 2000 to breast cancer. Motivated to raise awareness about the disease, Gannon started Pink Up, formerly known as Dig for Life, to inform women of the importance of early breast cancer detection and mammography screenings. Gannon was the volleyball coach at Southeast when she began the initiative, so she and her team partnered with Saint Francis Medical Center to provide free mammograms to women in the Southeast Missouri area.

10661689_10152538061792933_2542279978057039749_o“We’ve really embraced this as an athletics department. It is a way for our athletes to really be able to see how much of a difference they can make in other people’s lives,” says Gannon.

The Pink Up initiative has provided more than 2,000 mammograms to women in the Southeast Missouri area in its 14 years of existence. Now, all Southeast Athletics teams take part in raising funds for Pink Up.

“Pink Up is a wonderful tribute to my mother’s legacy and her life,” says Gannon. “If my mom’s suffering saved the life of one person, then that is what we want to do.”

Taylor and mom 6Taylor and mom 3Taylor certainly understands that importance. Today, she’s on the volleyball team at Southeast and actively participates in the Pink Up initiative, knowing how very important awareness efforts can be in saving the life of someone else’s mother. Taylor’s mom is now cancer-free, and she can call herself a survivor.

“It’s so vital that we use whatever resources we have to spread the word about self-breast exams and mammograms,” says Taylor. “My mom wouldn’t be here if she didn’t know the importance.”

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