LAFAYETTE (KATC) — Garry Brodhead began his fight against cancer long before the disease arrived on his front door. Inspired by athletes like George Foreman he felt this was a calling.
“I was watching my grandmother die from Pancreatic cancer. She was the strength of our family,” he said. “I thought, man I need to get connect with this because this might be one of my purposes in life.”
Just weeks after Brodhead was hired to coach the Cajuns in 2012 his wife Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Three years later, the girl he fell in love with when she moved next door when he was 8, died.
“God brought me to her in a relationship early. Usually, you meet someone when your 20 and live to be 80 years. He took her a little early from me, but because we met at 8, we were still together 50 years. How blessed is that?”
This season is the seventh “Pink Game” at Louisiana. The program’s annual game the honors survivors, their families and those who are fighting today.
This year, the game takes on a bigger meaning.
In October Kerry Maggard, the wife of Louisiana’s athletic director was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It’s like a Punch in the gut,” said Louisiana athletic director Bryan Maggard. “Your immediate thought is ‘I wish it were me instead of her.’ It leaves you with that empty feeling. The feeling of the unknown and uncertainty.”
Kerry’s diagnosis brought back haunting memories for the couple. Seventeen years earlier, Bryan was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“It’s different in many ways,” said Kerry. “But a lot of the same emotions came back. You never want cancer to strike anyone that you love.”
In December, fate seemingly intervened when Louisiana played in the Cure Bowl, a game that has raised $3.5 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“It was surreal, humble and overwhelming,” said Bryan. “You’re excited to be at the bowl game, excited to play in a bowl that has a great cause, and on the other hand you’d prefer not to be on the other end of the cause.”
In February, Kerry finished 20 rounds of radiation and rang that iconic bell that so many cancer patients ring after completing treatment.
But the end of treatment doesn’t leave survivors without scars.
“With any type of illness, especially cancer, the demons of doubt,” said Bryan. “Your mind starts playing the ‘what if game.’ That created a lot of valleys for both of us.”
“It was a relief to be done, but a surreal moment,” Kerry added. “You know you’ve gone through a lot to kill any cancer cells remaining. I’m in limbo right now and processing everything and looking for a new normal..”
Kerry juggles fears that her cancer could come back.
Andrea Brodhead was nearly cancer free for a year when it returned. After she died, coach Garry finally needed his team more than they needed him.
“I needed help. They helped me,” he said. “I’d open my desk drawer and there would be a note, coach I know you’re strong but I’m here for you.”
Each year cancer survivors talk with the team before tip-off, this year Louisiana will have a survivors walk, and like they’ve done in every game before the team will wear their pink uniforms. A color that has become the face for a disease, a fight, and survivors everywhere.
“There are many different shades of pink,” said Kerry. “That makes me think of the face of breast cancer. You have people across all walks of life affected. It doesn’t discriminate. There are many shades of cancer as there are shades of pink.”
“Pink to me serves as togetherness and strength together,” Garry added. “Everything I’m associated with in this cancer fight and fight to live is pink. We love wearing the pink uniforms because we l feel we’re in this fight together and we’re going to concur it together.”
Saturday’s Pink Game Schedule
8:30 a.m. – Registration Begins at CajunDome
9 a.m. – Pre-game shootaround
10 a.m. – Opening remakes by Coach Brodhead
10:30 a.m. – Walk Begins at CajunDome
12 p.m. – Walk Ends at CajunDome
1 p.m. – Meet and greet with the team
2 p.m. – Louisiana vs. Texas State (Survivors honored pregame)
4 p.m. – Closing Remarks (Following game)
(To pre-register or for more information contact the Andrea Brodhead Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org / (337) 800-0074)