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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Gymcats think pink

    From left, seniors Rachelle Silberg, Karin Wurm, Danielle Hicks and Melanie Weiser model the Gymcats alternate pink leotards that will be worn tonight at Arizonas breast cancer awareness meet vs. No. 9 UCLA.
    From left, seniors Rachelle Silberg, Karin Wurm, Danielle Hicks and Melanie Weiser model the Gymcats alternate pink leotards that will be worn tonight at Arizona’s breast cancer awareness meet vs. No. 9 UCLA.

    When the No. 17 Arizona gymnastics team takes the floor at McKale Center tonight against unbeaten No. 9 UCLA, things will look different than usual.

    The team’s red and blue leotards will turn to pink and it will be giving pink T-shirts to the crowd, as the Gymcats host their third annual meet promoting breast cancer awareness. Coming off a win against then-No. 17 Arizona State University last Friday, the Gymcats (5-2, 2-2) will be looking to improve from their season-high score of 195.925, but they are also looking for the chance to open some minds.

    “”If just one person learns one thing or feels more aware of breast cancer or cancer in general, then (the meet) has accomplished its goal,”” said UA assistant coach Colleen Johnson, whose mother died of cancer in 2005, a mere four weeks after being diagnosed.

    The odds of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer are one-in-eight, and several members of the team and a member of the Arizona athletic department have already had personal experiences with the disease.

    Kathleen “”Rocky”” LaRose, is entering her 14th year as the senior associate director of athletics – and her 29th year at the UA. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. After several treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, she was declared cancer-free.

    While the cancer may be gone, the mark it left will never disappear.

    “”It affects my life greatly,”” she said. “”The threat of it returning never goes away, and I have to be diligent and stay on top of it.””

    LaRose will not be able to attend the meet Friday because she will be accompanying the softball team to its tournament in Palm Springs, Calif.

    “”This is the first one I have to miss,”” she said. “”But I’ll be wearing the pink T-shirt they gave me.

    “”It is heartwarming,”” she added. “”To know that your alma mater has taken on this charge to make as many young people aware of this disease and of the importance of early detection. You don’t want anyone else to be affected and I hope that in my lifetime that they’ll find a cure.””

    Melanie Weiser, a communication senior, discovered her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about 10 years ago and knows the importance of early detection of the disease.

    “”It’s something we’re glad we get to bring attention to,”” she said. “”Because when you look around the room, there’s a good percentage that we could get this or might have to deal with in our lifetime.

    “”With my mom, it was caught early so it didn’t get to the bad stages,”” Weiser said. “”But she still has to go in for a mammogram every so often, and I’m at a greater risk to get it. Any disease in general hits home because it’s like wow, you can take good care of yourself, be athletic, be active, be healthy and something like this can still affect you.””

    Marketing senior Rachelle Silberg’s great-grandmother and grandmother both had breast cancer, as well as undeclared junior Erica Anderson’s aunt.

    Only Silberg’s great-grandmother passed away from the disease.

    “”It’s great that we can (host a meet like) this,”” Anderson said. “”To show that we care and that this (disease) is not forgotten is great. It gives us another reason to put forth our best effort and to leave nothing on the floor.””

    For Johnson, her hope is that this meet raises awareness for not just breast cancer, but cancer in general.

    “”If one little gymnast comes to the meet and asks ‘Mommy, what’s cancer?’, she learned something,”” Johnson said.

    The nationwide breast cancer awareness started four years ago after Talya Vexler, a former gymnast at the University of Georgia, was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her graduation, Johnson said. She has since beaten the disease and has helped raise $100,000 for the Athens (Ga.) Regional Breast Health Center, according to

    In 2004, several schools from the Southeastern Conference started hosting meets sponsoring breast cancer awareness, which has since become a multi-sport, nationwide campaign. Nearly every women’s gymnastics, basketball and ice hockey program across the nation host annual games or meets to raise awareness.

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