Cancer awareness

Pojoaque Valley's Matteo Nagle wore the Elks' cancer awareness uniform during the Oct. 29 district championship race.

    Throughout the region, local athletes donned pink accessories, uniforms, and put up decorations for Breast Cancer Awareness month, supporting the search for a cure to breast cancer, while also looking stylish.

    Luic Cuevas’ tia, Deanna Martinez, is also his guardian. The Española Valley High School senior running back and linebacker shares a special relationship with her.

    “I never had a mom or a dad, so she came and adopted us,” Cuevas said.

    Which has made the last two years especially hard as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer.

    “It’s definitely hard,” Cuevas said. “She’s sick a lot. She can’t really be out here anymore (at football games) coming to support us. It takes a toll as we all come together to take care of her. And we just hope for the best.”

    Nate Chacon, the team quarterback, said he has not personally had anyone close to him encounter breast cancer, but wants to do anything he can to support the awareness. That led to him giving pink ribbon stickers for all teammates to put on their helmets.

    For sports teams, this has been commonplace for some time. The Womens National Basketball Association was the first to raise funds while using a pink basketball in 2001, though that was not correlated with October. The National Football League has supported the October cause by encouraging pink articles of clothing as well as special decals and paint on the field since 2009. (I remember video games when I was a teenager where you could set a “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” setting to give simulated players pink accessories.)

    Some other teams will switch to an entirely pink uniform set — and college basketball teams often use February for “Play 4 Kay” pink games supporting more general cancer funds.

    The Escalante volleyball team had “dig pink” decorations set up throughout the gym, including walls to commemorate cancer survivors and victims.

    “Here in T.A., they’ve lost a lot of lives to (cancer),” said volleyball coach Kathleen Salazar-Valdez. “For myself, I lost my mother to lymphoma cancer. It runs close to the team because they’ve lost family members from cancer as well.”

    Pojoaque Valley High School’s Dominic Esquibel said he has worn pink during October for as long as he could remember. Elks players donned pink-colored socks, arm bands, cleats and towels. A cheer performance was held with pink uniforms and fans were encouraged to join in the “Pink Out” for an Oct. 2 game. An assistant coach dyed his long beard pink for the month.

    Right before the start of October, Española Valley volleyball coach Nicole Romero learned her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.

    “It takes you back to the bigger things in life,” she said. “It reminds me why I’m really here. And I’m here for the girls and for the experience in life. And I want them to learn something from me. I think it reminds us all that there’s things more important than just the game. It’s relationships, and the lives that we touch around us.”

    Romero said some players’ family members have fought breast cancer. Volleyball players wore special “dig pink” warm-up shirts along with pink masks and hair ribbons during October matches.

    “It’s an emotional month,” Romero said. “I know the girls see that, and we’re just trying to show our support for the breast cancer community.”

    While obviously simply wearing pink socks and ribbons for a month will not by itself solve breast cancer, the local athletes are determined to support the cause in any way they can.

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