By Jim Sullivan Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News
---- — For Newburyport field hockey coach Lauren Hefferan, last year’s Play 4 the Cure game against North Andover, a benefit for the Susan Komen Foundation for a cure for breast cancer, hit closer to home than she would have liked. Hefferan had received the diagnosis that she herself had Stage 3 breast cancer a month prior.
“It was very emotional,” Hefferan says of last year’s game at the Amesbury Sports Park. “It is just amazing all the people that support and help you. They were there for my family and for myself. It was unbelievable.”
This year, thanks to her doctors and the assistance of pretty much everyone she knows, the story will be a bit different for Hefferan as her Clippers will face off against Pentucket while she is now in remission.
“It was very difficult,” Heffernan says of last season where she was coaching and undergoing surgery at the same time. “It was very emotional. I remember telling the kids, and they all started crying. But they all rallied. They came up with the idea of dying their hair pink and wearing pink socks. The parents and the kids were great.”
Hefferan says she was met with a sea of pink at last year’s event including the usual clothing as well as her players — and even one of the parents — dying their hair pink. And the support continued long after that. When they learned that Hefferan was unable to cook after surgery, the parents cooked meals and gave the Heffernans gift certificates to local restaurants, something she and her family are still grateful for.
One of the people supporting Heffernan last year was close friend, Pentucket coach Ruth Beaton. The Sachems will now be looking to beat Hefferan’s Clippers Monday.
“I would do anything to support any cause that will help to combat a disease that has taken the lives of so many, without yet a cure,” says Beaton. “Whatever we can do, as small as it may be, is necessary and absolutely critical.”
Beaton has a friend who has been fighting breast cancer for the past 15 years, an athlete whose mother is battling breast cancer and an athlete whose aunt passed away from the disease recently. She says there truly is no one who hasn’t been touched by this disease one way or another and wishes that the energy that is brought to the cause in the month of October could continue for the rest of the year.
“It’s really important that we continue to fight this fight,” says Beaton. “We need all hands on deck. The more people who realize how pervasive it is, the better. It’s scary how everybody knows someone who has had it.”
Hefferan was diagnosed a month before last year’s game, and her future was in doubt. The surgeries and radiation took a toll on the coach and her family, but Hefferan can now look back through a prism of positivity.
“I feel I’m on the other side,” says Hefferan.
Now Hefferan wants to keep that spirit of going forward by showing her team that a community can help, as it did for her.
“Getting these young kids to realize that they can do a lot to help somebody else’s life,” Hefferan says, is the best lesson she can give.
“We’re trying to teach girls to take care of themselves,” adds Beaton. “If it’s a little bit, every little bit helps.”
The game itself, a Pentucket home game, will be played at the Amesbury Sports Park, possibly at 7 p.m. with the EEE ban likely rescinded in time. Donations will be collected at the game, and items will be on sale.
“It’s exciting,” Hefferan says of this year’s game. “I’m thrilled to be playing against Ruth because of all the support she gave me. I feel that there was a lot of fear last year. This year, it’s about the strength and the courage and supporting all the other people who are going through it right now.”