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Falcon volleyball digging for the cure

October 11, 2012

Mackenzie Suda (No. 13), senior setter for the Falcons, gets ready to set the ball.
Mackenzie Suda (No. 13), senior setter for the Falcons, gets ready to set the ball for a teammate. (Megan Rodriguez/Student Voice)

For the last five years, the UW-River Falls and the WIAC volleyball teams have participated in a breast cancer awareness match called “Dig for the Cure.” While “Dig for the Cure” hopes to raise money for breast cancer research, for one volleyball player, the event means celebrating her hero, her mother.

Mackenzie Suda, a senior from Ham Lake, Minn. has been through tough volleyball matches throughout her career, but that pales in comparison to the tough time her mother and family went through when Debi Suda was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in November of 2009.

Debi found out about her cancer when she went in for a physical and mammogram and they found a mass, which was cancer. She was diagnosed, had surgery, went through chemotherapy, radiation therapy and is currently doing biological therapy and treating lymphedema. Although Mackenzie said it was the hardest thing her family had to go through, she said that the closeness of her family helped them get through it, together.

“It was my freshman year of college, so it was tough being away from my mom,” said Mackenzie. “But me and my sister, Alexandra, who goes to UWRF as well, made as many appointments as we possibly could. My mother is my hero. She went through hell and back.”

Debi is now a little over two years cancer free, and will be recognized at UWRF’s upcoming “Dig for the Cure” volleyball match against UW-Eau Claire. The match will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the Karges Center.

According to the WIAC website, each of the nine WIAC teams will be involved in at least one promotional event throughout the month of October.

Over the past four seasons, conference teams have raised $88,142 in support of breast cancer awareness.

Last year, UWRF raised $4,000. Spectators are encouraged to wear pink clothing in support of all those affected by breast cancer.

Falcon Head Coach Patti Ford said this an opportunity for the volleyball community to rally around a great cause.

“Breast cancer affects women of all ages, and sometimes we forget about the affect it has on the people in our lives,” said Ford. “Personally, I love this because I know several women (survivors) who are family members, close friends and volleyball coaches. Their fight and their journeys have all made an impact on my life in some way or another.” Mackenzie said that she has learned a lot in the last couple of years and is proud to support breast cancer awareness.

“Because of events like this,” she said, “It is an easier road for those that have gone through it, are going through it, or will go through it. I have learned that even the littlest act of kindness can change and save a life. This is a game I look forward to every year and am proud of the fact that my whole team is on board,” said Mackenzie. Coach Ford is proud of her team’s efforts throughout the last five years in raising awareness, which is the ultimate goal of “Dig for the Cure.” She credited them with planning the event, and said it was the players’ idea to share a survivor story like Debi’s.

Mackenzie said that while sharing her message with the campus community, she hopes that others will be able to find strength and comfort in knowing others are there for you. “If someone you love is diagnosed with breast cancer, or any kind of cancer for that matter, it doesn’t mean it is a death sentence,” said Mackenzie. “It’s all about positive attitude, finding your inner strengths and surrounding yourself with the ones you love. Know how to be grateful and know how blessed you are. Prayers can get you through anything.”

She also stressed the importance of educating yourself on the disease so you can make good decisions on your plan of treatment and that if anyone takes anything out of the “Dig for the Cure” event, it is that education and early screening are key.

“Even though we had lots of tears, we had plenty of laughs along the way, which I know my mom appreciated. Along with my dad and sister, I helped nurse my mom. I am so glad I could be a part of getting her healthy because those are personal times that won’t be forgotten. We pray for the newly diagnosed women and hope they will be as lucky as we are.”