CHICAGO – The modern-day student-athlete has plenty on their plate in the year 2020.
DePaul student-athletes are juggling online classes and attending practice all while navigating the current guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The women of DePaul volleyball added one more element to the mix by stepping up to raise awareness for breast cancer with an awareness-driven social media campaign last week.
‘We are proud to once again support Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October,” coach Marie Zidek said. “You just don’t learn about a lot of health issues—especially women’s health issues—in school at any level.”
Each October, the Blue Demon volleyball team takes part in the Dig Pink Campaign benefiting the Sideout Foundation, a nonprofit research organization revolutionizing stage IV breast cancer treatment. The last two seasons with the support of friends and family, Zidek and her players have raise more than $1,000 to support clinical trials and therapies for the stage IV breast cancer community.
While the competition season is put on hold this fall, it remains important to focus attention and amplify awareness for such a widespread disease that has impacted so many loved ones.
The simple reminders and educational tips provided throughout last week’s campaign had the potential to educate so many of the Blue Demon faithful with crucial information.
“This isn’t limited to breast cancer of course, but these awareness campaigns using social media and other information outlets are vital in spreading factual information about an issue that touches about one in seven women at the current time,” Zidek said. “With these statistics, odds are you have a loved one or you yourself have had to deal with this type of cancer.”We now know that catching it early by getting screened routinely once you hit a certain age can be a massive advantage to combating this disease.”
For sophomore pin hitter Bailey Nelson, breast cancer has hit close to home as her mom Wendy was diagnosed during her freshman year.
“The diagnosis was devastating for my family, especially since I was away at school and could not be there for most of the process,” Nelson said.
“Now, my mom has been cancer-free for eight-and-a-half months, and I am so proud to have been able to witness how strong she is. My mom is a true fighter, and I am so thankful to have her in my life.”
In the midst of a 20-hour weekly training schedule, the volleyball players set aside a few minutes at the end of practice to honor those in their lives affected by breast cancer. With signs designed by assistant coach Erin Higgins, each student-athlete expressed whom they played for, with honorees including Wendy Nelson and former athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto among others.
While the work to combat breast cancer is far from over, Zidek and her program moved the needle forward as we are reminded to lift each other up and continue to take care of ourselves.
“I have watched close family members, our players’ loved ones and even some of our alumni deal with this disease,” Zidek said. “They are courageous and should continue to be celebrated and supported in this fight.
“As a woman, often times our health comes last behind a career, taking care of the family and tending to a home. Be your best advocate. Fight equally to keep your health at the forefront and get the care you deserve.”