Oct. 14, 2010
As a 12-year-old girl, Ariana (Ari) Byrd received devastating news; her grandma had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I will never forget the day my mom told me my grandma had breast cancer; it was one of the worst days of my life," Byrd said. "It's scary knowing that someone you love is going through it."
Eight years later, Pauline Byrd is a breast cancer survivor and the relationship with her granddaughter, a sophomore goalkeeper on the Washington State University soccer team, has never been stronger.
"My grandma lives in Kentucky," Ari said. "When she was diagnosed, she came to Arizona where I live. She had surgery and her chemotherapy there. I was with her every day. I hit my first Little League home run the day of the surgery. It was cool because she would go to every single game and that was the first one she missed. From that day on, my sister, family and I took care of her every day."
Ari added. "When she was going through chemo, her white blood cell count got so low that she got an infection and we were told if she would have been brought to the hospital two hours later, she would have died. That definitely brought us closer together. You cannot go through something like that and not have a strong bond."
Ari and Pauline Byrd's story is being shared as part of Washington State University Athletics' role in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Cougar soccer team will wear pink jerseys during its Oct. 22 match against Oregon State in Pullman. The jerseys are being sold for $30 each with $20 from each purchase donated to breast cancer research.
"It is awesome," Ari said. "I want to be a part of this forever if I can. To know that everyone is going to wear pink jerseys and that it has something to do with my grandma means a lot to me and my family."
In addition to the soccer match, the Cougar volleyball team will wear pink jerseys during its match Oct. 23 against Arizona and the Washington State swimming team will don pink caps, Oct. 22 during day one of the Fourth Annual Debbie Pipher Memorial Invitational at Gibb Pool. A commemorative poster featuring Kaleinani Kabalis (volleyball), Jen Dean (swimming) and Byrd, each a granddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, will be available throughout the weekend.
The Cougar rowing team will wear pink attire during its home regatta against Gonzaga, Oct. 29 and Washington State Athletics is encouraging everyone to wear pink, Oct. 21 as part of "Think Pink Thursday" in an effort to raise awareness about the disease.
"My grandma doesn't know about everything we are doing at Washington State," Ari said. "It is all a surprise to her. Her granddaughter is on the poster and I think that will really mean a lot to her. Even though it's been eight years and she has not had any problems since, I wanted her to know that I am still thinking about her fight and I'm happy she is still here."
Ari's advice to anyone receiving the news she did as a 12-year-old is simple.
"If you have a family member who is diagnosed, love her and support her," Byrd advised. "That is what she needs the most, Breast cancer can be overcome."
Pauline Byrd is living proof of that.