VANCOUVER, BC – This Sunday’s match between Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Portland Timbers holds special importance for Tommy Heinemann and his wife Katrina.
Katrina’s mother, who just completed her final round of chemotherapy for breast cancer, is in town this weekend and will be in the stands Sunday at BC Place.
The visit has been in the works for quite some time.
It just so happens that Sunday is Whitecaps FC’s official kickoff match for Breast Cancer Awareness Month as part of Major League Soccer’s Soccer Kicks Cancer initiative.
The match will be played with a commemorative pink adidas Prime 2013 Official Match Ball accompanied by pink corner flags, goal nets and fieldboards. BC Place will also be lit pink that evening.
“I think it will be really neat for her to be there,” Heinemann told whitecapsfc.com. “Most importantly, we’ll just get to be together and be with her.”
Heinemann’s mother-in-law, Lynne, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in May. She then had surgery to remove the cancerous tissue before undergoing six treatments of chemotherapy. Currently, she’s in the process of undergoing a mammogram to determine whether or not there are any cancerous cells remaining.
“When somebody undergoes chemotherapy, it takes so much energy out of your body and so much of your strength away,” Heinemann said. “She’s very much in a recovery mode, trying to gain back her strength and health.”
“Katrina and I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that God is in complete and utter control of everything and I know my mother-in-law believes in that too,” he added. “It’s been a trial, yes, but even more so for Lynne so we’re just there to support her and be there with her as much as we can.”
For Whitecaps FC, the battle against breast cancer hits close to home.
Over the years, a number of players and staff have been affected by it in some way or form, which isn’t much of a surprise considering one in nine women are expected to develop the disease in their lifetime.
Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, is among those affected – as is goalkeeper Brad Knighton. His wife’s mother, aunt, and most recently her grandfather have all successfully battled the disease at some point over the last decade.
“When you first hear about it, it’s kind of mind-blowing,” Knighton told whitecapsfc.com. “It’s crazy to think that you could be affected by it as well.”
“Through the tough times they have with chemo and everything that they’re going through, they just need a great support cast around them,” he continued. “If that means going to appointments, chemo treatments … knowing that you’re right there by their side as their rock is only going to help them through that process.”
At the beginning of the season, Knighton had the opportunity of choosing what colour jersey he wanted to wear – he didn’t have to think twice.
“I saw a pink jersey and the first thing I thought of was the people that have been affected by breast cancer,” he said. “That’s the jersey I wanted to wear.”
That’s the jersey goalkeeper David Ousted has been wearing as well. Six years ago, his mother passed away from what was believed to be a form of lung cancer.
Ousted, who was working in another part of the country at the time, said the worst part was that he wasn’t able to say a proper goodbye.
“Around Christmas time she told us she was going for treatment and end of February she was gone already,” he said. “I was planning to visit on the Saturday and on Friday sadly she passed away. That was a really hard blow for me.”
Since then, Ousted has become much more involved with different charities to help the fight against cancer. Like Heinemann and Knighton, he had nothing but positive things to say about the work MLS is doing with their Soccer Kicks Cancer initiative.
Ousted said he’ll be thinking about his mother on Sunday, but that’s nothing new.
“I think these days are great to raise awareness,” he said, “but I don’t go through a day without remembering her and the things she taught me.”