Hope Floats

Hope Floats

Although this is the season of pumpkins and colored leaves, the color for October is pink. It’s the color of ribbons pinned on backpacks; it’s the color of 1,000 balloons released into the heavens. For some, it’s the color of hope.

TCU’s Pink Out football game is not just about turning the stadium pink for one evening, but it is also a time to remember breast cancer patients and celebrate survivors.

Three women, who have each been affected by breast cancer in different ways, come together each October to help organize the event and spread awareness to the TCU community using their own personal stories.

Facing the Fight

Denise Bennett said she never saw it coming. During the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping with friends, Bennett, academic program specialist for TCU’s pre-health program, received the call. She had cancer.

Bennett had a mastectomy, the removal of the entire breast, and thought the cancer was gone. But, her doctor found HER2nu, an aggressive protein that perpetuates the growth of cancer. For the next four months, she endured chemotherapy, allergic reactions and hair loss.

“Losing your hair is just devastating,” she said. “By the 13th day, my hair was coming out by the handful. It was the hardest thing to deal with.”

On top of that, she said she felt miserable – so miserable she couldn’t go to work. Despite feeling weak and sick from the chemotherapy, Bennett refused to abandon her job and “her kids” in the pre-health program.

“I want to have the doors open for students,” she said. “I have a job. I have to go.”

Bennett said now she is cancer-free and wants to put the past behind her and appreciate what’s important in life.

Enduring the Fight

Despite losing her mother to breast cancer her freshman year at TCU, Robin Forner, a senior international communications and Spanish and Latin American studies major, said she’s staying positive. Her mother, Diane Forner, was diagnosed with cancer when Robin Forner was 14, and her father died from a genetic disease two years later.

“When you’re young, you don’t think about losing a parent – it was life-changing,” Robin Forner said. “It’s one of the most maturing things.”

Robin Forner said her mother was strong and never complained or showed fear. She said her mom endured a mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy by herself for nearly six years. Robin Forner said one of the greatest memories with her mother was visiting colleges in Texas and California.

“It was a trip I will never forget,” she said. “We became friends. I’m glad we got to have that – a lot of people don’t get that with their parents.”

Robin Forner has volunteered for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Race for the Cure and worked with TCU’s Pink Out committee, she said. Robin Forner shared her experience during halftime at last year’s Pink Out game. She said her mom is the reason why she’s involved with raising breast cancer awareness.

“My mom, she lost the fight, but that doesn’t mean I have to,” Robin Forner said.

Surviving the Fight

After dealing with breast cancer about a year ago, TCU alumna Dana McGuirk, who also works on the Pink Out committee, said the experience opened many doors for her.

McGuirk, a registered nurse in surgical recovery at Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital, said she talks with breast cancer patients at the hospital and tries to be a good role model for them.

McGuirk said she had a double mastectomy but no chemotherapy because the cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes, which are vital to the immune system and filter out bad cells.

“The biggest fear out of it all was telling my kids,” she said. “I felt I had to be strong for them. Of course, we were scared. Things like this bring you to your knees.”

McGuirk’s son, Matthew, a junior communication studies major and baseball player at TCU, will share his perspective at the Pink Out game on Saturday.

To raise awareness and funds for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, TCU will don pink for its third annual Pink Out game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, against the New Mexico Lobos. According to the foundation’s Tarrant County chapter Web site, proceeds from ticket and T-shirt sales will go toward helping breast cancer patients. During halftime, McGuirk said, a number of survivors and other speakers will share their experiences and close with a release of 1,000 pink balloons.