As 2013 draws to a close, take a look back at our original profiles on some of the athletes that made this a memorable year for Austin Peay athletics. Our final spotlight - a new profile runs on New Year's Eve - is on Jada Stotts and her unique perspective of Austin Peay's Think Peaynk initiative.
Breast Cancer awareness is held close to the hearts of many women and families across the country. The dreaded disease cuts an indiscriminate wide swath across all economic, social and racial paths and boundaries.
When Austin Peay State University’s volleyball team serves as host, Friday night, to its annual Think Peaynk—promoting Breast Cancer Awareness—match against Southeast Missouri, donning the pink will have an even more heightened meaning to Lady Govs junior Jada Stotts.
“It has a totally different meaning for me now,” Stotts said. “I think until it’s affected you on a personal level you just don’t worry about it as much. It means something totally different than it did before. I’m an only child. At home, it’s just me and my mom. We’ve always had a really close relationship.”
Jada was finishing up the spring semester when they got the news. A lump had developed on Sue’s breast a while back, and after getting it checked out it was discovered to be cancerous. Her family history – Jada’s grandmother had also been diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago – had made it likely that either Sue or one of her three sisters would be diagnosed at some point, but that did not make the news any easier to grasp.
And so the treatments began. Jada completed her spring semester, while her family provided Sue with emotional support and a friendly face in the doctor’s office.
“It was tough being at school and not being able to be there for her the first couple of weeks,” Jada said. “My family has been extremely supportive. Someone was with her for every doctor’s visit, whether it was her sisters or my grandmother or me once I got home for the summer.”
Jada was apprehensive about the treatments; she was unsure of what to expect the first time she went her mother to St. Alexius Hospital, located in her hometown of Hoffman Estates, Ill.
“I had no idea what to expect at treatments,” Jada said. “But by the time I got home and was able to go with her, my mom had been to a few treatments and was an old pro at it. Some sessions lasted six hours. About half the time my mom slept and we talked during the rest of the time. They do their best to make it comfortable, and they gave her Benadryl to help her sleep through as much as she could.”
Through all of that, Jada says her teammates and Austin Peay family kept in constant contact with her, helping her and her mom stay positive.
“The support from my team has been amazing,” Jada said. “I consider each of my teammates a part of my family. When I was home during the summer, they were constantly asking me how my mom was doing. Everyone was praying for her and genuinely cared about how she was doing.”
Austin Peay volleyball coach Taylor Mott and the rest of the Lady Govs have done everything they can to help Jada and Sue and support them during a difficult time.
“We tell her all the time that if she needs anything to let us know,” Mott said. “If she needs to go home or be with her mom, she can. So far, things have gone well and her mom has a good support system at home that helps her handle things while Jada’s here.”
Another aspect of Jada’s college life that’s been a huge benefit to her during this time has been her involvement in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Jada’s FCA connection coupled with her mother’s diagnosis has served to strengthen her bond with Christ, a bond that is fairly new – Jada accepted Christ at the end of last year, right before her mother’s diagnosis.
“My relationship with Christ has definitely helped me through the process with my mom,” Jada said. “I’ve learned how powerful prayer is. I was praying daily for my mom, and knowing that my teammates and friends in FCA were doing the same really helped both of us.”
Some people – perhaps many people who received a diagnosis like this – would be devastated. Jada says that’s not her mother’s style.
“Through the whole process, she’s been very positive,” Jada said. “She’s never asked, ‘Why me?’ She realized it’s just something she has to go through. Watching her stay so positive and encouraging has really helped me.”
Sue’s road to recovery will be long – doctors are encouraged that the lump has shrunk significantly through her chemotherapy. Her positivity, Jada says, remains her greatest asset.
“It’s hard to worry about her because she’s so positive,” Jada said. “If it wasn’t for missing her hair, you wouldn’t know she had cancer. The doctors were very positive and knowing my family can be there any time is very comforting.”