Even cheerleaders need cheerleaders.

“I had no family history of any type of cancer. It is not selective. It does not discriminate. No matter what your lifestyle or background, when you have cancer, it’s a fear you live with every day – with any ache or unusual pain, the first thought that comes to mind is…has the cancer spread?”

On Monday, October 13, 2008, Suzy Thompson, the University of Missouri’s Head Cheer Coach, was diagnosed with breast cancer—a total shock. The following Friday was the first of two surgeries, the beginning of four months of chemotherapy, followed by thirty-six weeks of radiation. The 9-year road ahead was far from easy.

Suzy comments, “You might think you don’t make a difference, but you do, and you can. A hug, a smile, a card, wearing pink – to any cancer patient, these acts means so much.”

When Suzy learned she had cancer, her immediate reaction was to handle the journey privately; she didn’t want anyone to know. Suzy soon realized she needed support and reassurance that she could (AND WOULD) make it through her difficult journey. The perpetual love from those around her was overwhelming and just what Suzy and her family needed.

“I remember going to practice that night to tell my kids of the journey that lay ahead.” Suzy shares. “My assistant coach had to finish my statement to the squad; I couldn’t get through it.  After I told my cheerleaders, at the next practice they were all wearing pink shirts.  At first I thought, ‘I can’t handle this pink, it serves as a reminder of something so traumatic.’ I was wrong. I gained strength and courage from seeing anyone in pink, and now, I never go a day without something pink on!”

From that day on, all of the Mizzou squads have worn pink in some way. While it started small, a pink ribbon or pink poms, the squad wanted to do more. You see, each of these athletes have now been touched by someone with cancer, and they wanted to show more support than ever. The idea was brought up to incorporate the color pink into a new uniform. Though Suzy was hesitant at first, knowing how much it meant to so many, she consulted with the University of Missouri Athletics Department, and they jumped onboard immediately.

With the help of Amy Lovelady, Mizzou’s Varsity Rep and Suzy’s dear friend, the vision of the pink uniforms came to fruition.

Suzy comments, “She [Amy Lovelady] made it happen. We will proudly be wearing these [uniforms] at all breast cancer appearances and throughout the month of October for all breast cancer survivors and families!”

No matter what the future holds, Suzy proclaims how thankful she is for every single day and for all who have made a difference in her life with unconditional love, support, and friendship.

At the end of the day, week, month, year, or lifetime, we all need compassion and others cheering for us in order to live our best lives. Take time this month to be a cheerleader by supporting Breast Cancer Awareness, and love on someone that needs your support and encouragement!