Mom's breast cancer fight brings extra meaning to 'Shoot for the Cure' game for Chamberlin

Griffins' rookie point guard Mady Chamberlin looks for an opening against Saskatchewan last weekend (Chris Piggott photo).
Griffins' rookie point guard Mady Chamberlin looks for an opening against Saskatchewan last weekend (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – When she was in Grade 9, Mady Chamberlin received a phone call that changed her life.

Her dad Jeff was on the line. With her younger brother and sister gathered around, he told them that their mom Lorrie had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"When she first found out about it, the doctor didn't really think it was going to be anything," the MacEwan Griffins point guard said. "She went in to get some more tests done and she found out it was cancer. The first time wasn't too bad. She didn't have to get chemo or anything."

Lorrie beat it the first time, but the cancer returned in her other breast a year later.

"The second time, she had a tumour in her other breast and it was worse than the first time," said Mady. "She was going to have to do more severe surgery. I remember it was harder on her, for sure, and harder on the rest of us the second time around.

"She'd be out of everything for a couple of weeks when she had chemo. That was harder on us because a lot fell on my dad to get us around. We had to take care of her, which was different for us because she usually was taking care of us."

Fortunately, Lorrie also beat cancer the second time around, is healthy and has resumed her position as number one cheerleader for her daughter, a promising rookie on the MacEwan Griffins women's basketball team.

On Friday, Mady Chamberlin will head into a special game as the Griffins participate in a U SPORTS-wide initiative 'Shoot for the Cure' which raises money and awareness for breast cancer research. The game (6 p.m. vs. Mount Royal University, Atkinson Gym) offers fans a chance to donate to the Canadian Cancer Society, while players support the cause.

Mady Chamberlin is looking forward to what the opportunity represents: a chance to give back to her mom, who has given so much to her.

"It's really good because she's always been my number one fan," she said. "So, having an opportunity to go out and play for her … it's going to be good.

"She comes to every one of my games. If she can't come, my dad records them so she can watch video," Mady added. "She can be a crazy fan, but it's because she loves me and is wanting the best for me and my team."

Poignantly, in a video produced by MacEwan Athletics, Griffins women's basketball players display signs of who they're shooting for on Friday. It's a touching reminder that cancer affects almost everyone.

"It's incredible to see how many people have been impacted and affected by not only breast cancer, but all cancers," said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams. "It has impacted us and I'm hugely proud to see them have the courage to share that and step up for a great cause. Thanks to U SPORTS for supporting this for so many years."

Chamberlin, one of the best high school point guards in the province while at Strathcona last season, has big talent, but her first season has been a large learning curve as she gets accustomed to a jump in level.

"Her U SPORTS career didn't start the way she would have wanted it to," said Adams. "She got pretty sick at the start of the year and then had an injury that set her back.

"Our expectations for her have always been high, so it's great to see her finally starting to step into that role that we know she's capable of stepping in and filling."

Last weekend against Saskatchewan – in the Griffins' first action following semester break – she showed flashes of the elite agility and decision-making that made her one of Adams' prized recruits in 2017-18. Where she was tentative early in the campaign, against the Huskies, Chamberlin was decisive and had to be accounted for by one of the best teams in the country. As a result, she saw the most minutes she's had all season (22 and 20).

"I definitely, as the season's been going, feel more comfortable," she said. "I'm feeling more support and trust from my team as the year goes by, so that's been helping with my personal confidence.
"Coming into a new team you always have to figure out how everyone likes to play and what works for them. Having played with them for some time now and what everyone likes to do, how to make everyone successful (helps)."

While Chamberlin's always been a passer first, she was also a scorer in high school. That part of her game hasn't yet materialized at the Canada West level (she's averaging just 0.4 points per contest), but it seems only a matter of time.

"She has great vision – a great distributor, really a great point guard looking to make things happen," said Adams. "I look forward to her continuing to bring that for us and start to show off her ability to score here as well."

The Griffins (3-9) and Cougars (0-12) will also meet on Saturday (5 p.m., Atkinson Gym).