DENVER -- The pink that the Brewers and Rockies wore on the field on Mother's Day, and similar items that have been spotting sports and society for years, make the unmistakable statement that Susan G. Komen is there.Last year, Rochelle McKenzie found Komen Colorado is there for her and others
DENVER -- The pink that the Brewers and Rockies wore on the field on Mother's Day, and similar items that have been spotting sports and society for years, make the unmistakable statement that Susan G. Komen is there.
Last year, Rochelle McKenzie found Komen Colorado is there for her and others going through the same struggle.
At 30, McKenzie, single parent of a daughter, Amyah, 5 1/2, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and needed immediate treatment. But, she was selling skin care products and had no insurance. Komen Colorado was a life-saver.
"It's really important for everyone to get involved in anything they can," said McKenzie, honored Sunday as the Honorary Bat Girl, a program observed by each MLB team. "There are so many organizations out there that can help, like Susan G. Komen, who helped me get started with treatment right away -- life-saving treatment -- so that I could be here this Mother's Day with my daughter, Amyah."
The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative celebrated on Mother's Day. Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer is a Major League Baseball initiative supported by MLB charitable partners, Stand Up To Cancer and Susan G. Komen. This initiative raises awareness about the breast cancer cause, while also raising funds to support breast cancer research. For more information, please visit HonoraryBatGirl.com.
Since 1991, Komen Colorado has awarded more than $40 million in grants to local non-profit organizations and healthcare facilities to offset costs for mammograms, diagnostic testing, chemotherapy and radiation and surgery. The organization uses 75 percent of net proceeds raised during Race for the Cure.
McKenzie's grant helped her begin treatment before she could eventually qualify for Medicaid. She would endure eight rounds of eight rounds of chemotherapy, 20 rounds of radiation, a bilateral mastectomy, reconstructive surgery -- and an infection that landed her in the hospital for several days.
Since receiving the support, McKenzie has been giving back to others.
She was honored at a WWE Smackdown event, when Dana Warrior presented her with a special pink championship belt and she met many of the wrestlers. She immediately took the belt to her oncologist, and also brought it to patients at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Clinic to offer encouragement. She volunteers with unions her company works with to raise money and awareness for various concerns, gathers Toys for Tots, has bowled to raise money for Puerto Rico as it recovers from Hurricane Maria, and sponsors a 5-year-old girl, Nethmi, in Sri Lanka through World Vision.
"Just don't give up, and believe that you're going to get through," McKenzie said. "A lot of getting over an illness is mind over matter, for sure. The mind is very powerful. Just believe and go."
McKenzie, who as a child was a fan of the Rockies and All-Star Dante Bichette, has lost count of the number of people she has reached out to while offering encouragement.
"I don't even know -- I tell everybody, and people are always so shocked," she said. "I want to keep telling people because its everywhere. Unfortunately, one out of five women get diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a friend that was diagnosed the same time as me and she actually died from it. So, it's always important to do your monthly checks, know your body and know what's normal."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.