A football game where jerseys come off in the name of fighting cancer

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A Friday night in late September and the Lake Orion Dragons are hungry for a win - but for many in this pink soaked crowd, this football game is about much more than a final score.

On this night the boys wear the names of other's on their backs.  Names of moms, dads, grandparents and children - this gathering celebrating the memory of those we have lost to cancer and the lives of survivors.

My son, number 17, wears the name of my friend, Michele Remer.
 
"I'm so honored to have Casey where my jersey," she said. "I've known Casey since he was a little guy and what an amazing kid he is. It is quite an honor."

Michele has stood in this stadium so many times before, but this night feels so different.  It was one year ago where with one phone call, life completely changed. 

"I actually was sitting in an airport in Fargo and I received a phone call," she said. "The doctor's nurse said it's positive for breast cancer.

"That was one year ago today’s date, October 10 of last year."

The shock and sadness is overwhelming, Michele struggled to tell her husband Brad and then the worst part, explaining to her two college daughters and teenage son, that yes, mom has breast cancer.  But yes, life will go on.

"I didn't want my little blip in my life to affect their life," she said. "So that was my number one goal. When I thought they were going to be fine and I knew they were going to be fine, it made things easier for me."

Easier is a relative term, because the cancer battle gets real ugly. For those of us watching Michele go through this, the moment we knew it was real was the day her signature blond hair was gone.

"You cry and you laugh and they just take it off and you move on," she said.

Reflecting on her diagnosis, she suspected something was wrong, her breast didn't look right. She had several years of abnormal mammograms.

"After that I started getting deformities in my breast," she said. "I had a dent in my breast so that was kind of a red flag for me. You have to be your own advocate. If you think something is wrong, even though you want to believe everything is fine, if there is that feeling in the back of your mind, really do everything you can do."

After dozens of rounds of both chemotherapy and radiation, Michele had a mastectomy, her right breast removed. And now she's going through reconstruction, rebuilding her body and her life with a little help.

"The support of my family, my friends, the community as a whole, really helped me get through this process in a way I have no words for."

This pink out game and the keepsake jerseys are to benefit A Mother's Wish, a grass roots charity for families struggling with breast cancer. A Mother's Wish was started by a Lake Orion mom and teacher, Kathy Luby, before her 2008 death from breast cancer. CLICK HERE for more.

This night is her legacy.

The game ends, and even in defeat, the boys are proud to take to the field. For some of these players, they don't even know the name on their jersey, but the boys see the tears and feel the significance.

Eventually the jerseys are handed over, there are pictures and hugs and for all of us, this is a win.

Michele wanted to share her story so that other women fight to get the right screening. For her it was a 3-d mammogram that was key.

We are coming together on Saturday with the American Cancer Society and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. We are celebrating 20 years of this event at Hart Plaza. see you there.

CLICK HERE if you would like to join the walk, donate or for more information.

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