EDMONTON – Not knowing if her grandmother would live long enough to see her high school graduation, Monika Curtis tried on her grad dress for her at the hospice where she was battling the final stages of a rare form of leukemia brought on by chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.
Sadly, her grandmother Judy Petschulat passed away before she walked up on stage to receive her high school diploma from Mount Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna.
It was also just days before younger sister Becca Curtis turned 16.
Both now members of the Griffins women’s basketball team this season, the sisters will have their grandmother front of mind when they host Thompson Rivers University in MacEwan’s annual Shoot for the Cure game supporting breast cancer research on Saturday (5 p.m.). The teams will also meet on Friday.
“I don’t think we were expecting the leukemia to come,” said Becca Curtis, who joined her sister on the Griffins as a rookie in 2019-20. “We knew she had breast cancer and we knew she was going to beat that battle, but this was something we weren’t expecting, so I think it hit the family a lot harder.”
Their enduring memory of their grandma – her positivity in the face of adversity. Part of the bad hand she was dealt included years of battling the challenges of Multiple Sclerosis.
“She was always the person that in any bad situation, she’d see the positive,” said Monika Curtis. “She had MS as well, so she was really sick. You would never even know. She was just the happiest person. She dealt with it. She never complained. Even when she was going through all of her chemo, she never complained to us. We tried to do the best that we could for her.”
Because of cancer’s far-reaching wickedness, affecting far too many people on this earth, almost every member of the Griffins has a story and will be playing for someone special on Saturday night.
“I think it just shows in my four years here we’ve been able to highlight four players who’ve been impacted by cancer or breast cancer,” said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams. “It really goes to show that it impacts us all and it’s a cause that’s close to home.”
Last season, more than $97,000 was raised by U SPORTS member institutions during Shoot for the Cure games – which run all season across the country – with more than $1.3 million raised for the Canadian Cancer Society and other related provincial and local charities since the initiative began in 2007 as the brainchild of then Bishop’s women’s head coach Rod Gilpin.
“I think it’s a good day to remember those who’ve passed, those who are still fighting and those who’ve beat it,” said Monika Curtis. “It’s a big thing. It does affect so many people. I think it’s good that we’re acknowledging it and playing in spirit for those who’ve beat it and those who’ve passed.”
“I think U SPORTS has done a great job of acknowledging it and promoting it and getting the word out about how many have been affected by it.”