The A's honored some amazing women during their eleventh annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day on Saturday night, and it allowed me the opportunity to spend the evening with the special females in my life: my four sisters, and my aunt Marie. Mom was sorely missed, but she is in Oregon visiting her oldest sister.
My oldest sister Tonianne, as mentioned previously here, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, not long before the A's began what turned out to be their last World Series winning season. A few years later, Aunt Marie was stricken as well. Both ladies were on the field Saturday with many more survivors, and they helped form the now very familiar pink ribbon that has become the symbol for breast cancer.
It is always an emotional experience to see my sister on the field- especially under these circumstances- as she is the person most responsible for my attachment to all things A's. How many times in my life have I stood with her, cheering on our baseball heroes? And yet once a year for the past eleven seasons around this time, I have been privileged to stand for her, and to salute a true hero.
In the October 10, 2002 issue of The Weekly, a newsletter put out by Mills College where Tonianne works as an administrative assistant, my sister talked about how her life changed forever some twenty years ago:
"I found a lump in my breast in February 1989", Nemeth (Tonianne's married name) said. Her doctor ordered a mammogram and it came back positive.
Nemeth had two surgeries, the initial biopsy and a lumpectomy in addition to seven months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In addition, she was put on Tamoxifen, a commonly used anti-estrogen pill.
"The first question you ask is ‘why me?', Nemeth said. My husband was of the mindset that we would beat cancer- from the beginning- so with that kind of determination, I had to fight.
My brother-in-law Michael (Tonianne's husband), their son Patrick, my great-nephew Nathaniel, and my uncle Dan (my mom's youngest brother who is also Aunt Marie's husband) were part of our group on Saturday night. Oh, and I can't forget my god-daughter (and good luck charm) Brittany, who was the young lady on the other side of the camera.
After the breast cancer came back four years later, my sister had a mastectomy. As she told The Weekly, "It was crappy to look in the mirror at a flat, ugly seven-inch scar where my breast used to be, but I learned that I am more than just a breast."
Much, much more Tone. Aside from being an awesome sister, and a tremendous influence to me baseball-wise, you are an inspiration to so many people.
Saturday night Tonianne celebrated twenty years as a breast cancer survivor, surrounded by loved ones, while watching the team she has loved for twice as long. And wouldn't you know it, but those A's staged a nifty little comeback to send us home happy.
Front, l-r: my great-nephew, and three of my sisters. Back, l-r: Michael, Tonianne, and 67M.
The A's have today off but go back at it tomorrow at the Chicago White Sox. Game time is 5:11pm PST.