Shoot For The Cure initiative vs. Winnipeg will be special for Farmer after aunt battled breast cancer

Mackenzie Farmer was only eight when her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she now grasps how fortunate it was that her aunt was cancer-free so quickly (Chris Piggott photo).
Mackenzie Farmer was only eight when her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she now grasps how fortunate it was that her aunt was cancer-free so quickly (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – When she was just eight years old, Mackenzie Farmer learned her aunt was sick.

Unable to really grasp the concept at the time that aunt Brenda McChesney had breast cancer, it was only in later years that the MacEwan women's basketball player fully realized how lucky her relative was to beat a disease that affects millions of families.

"She was diagnosed April 2009. It was pretty much by chance because she ended up moving from Camrose to Edmonton," Farmer explained. "She went to find a new doctor and when she got her new doctor, he requested she do a mammogram. That's actually when they found it."

A month later she had surgery and had 17 lymph nodes removed, which were all cancer free.

"Because I was so young, I didn't really know the process," said Farmer. "I didn't even know what cancer was then. I knew she was sick. She got cured so quickly that I didn't really have the emotional toll that some families get, which I'm so fortunate for."

With that in mind, Farmer and her teammates will be shooting for their loved ones who've been affected by cancer by participating in the U SPORTS Shoot For The Cure initiative on Friday when the Griffins host the Winnipeg Wesmen (6 p.m., David Atkinson Gym).

The Shoot for the Cure campaign has proven an overwhelming success since it was launched in the fall of 2007, with over $1.25 million in donations to date. The 2018-19 initiative again includes all 47 U SPORTS women's basketball schools for the eighth year in a row.

To donate to the campaign, run by the Canadian Cancer Society, click here.

"U SPORTS has done and continues to do a great job of promoting the cause," said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams. "It's something that's near and dear to us with a number of family members who've been impacted by this.

"I think everyone on our team knows someone personally who has been impacted by cancer and breast cancer, specifically. It's certainly something we're happy to be a part of and support."

Farmer noted she's not only shooting for her aunt, who remains cancer free, but for the other families affected, too.

"Not every family's going to be as fortunate as mine where she had it and then she didn't," said the Sherwood Park product. "A lot of families, unfortunately, don't get to see the end and they don't get to see their loved one.

"The shoot means to me that I am still shooting for other families. I'm showing my support. Even though they're going through something different than I went through, I'm shooting for them."

Both the Griffins and Wesmen are 0-4 and enter the weekend searching for their first win of the 2018-18 Canada West season, so someone is going to break the goose-egg. Besides Friday, the teams will also square off on Saturday (5 p.m., David Atkinson Gym).

Farmer currently leads the Griffins in scoring with 9.8 points per game. She hasn't had trouble putting up points, though, finishing third on the Griffins in scoring as a rookie last season even though she didn't even turn 18 until the second semester.

"She has no fear and she's confident in her ability to score, so she was able to come in and take on a role that was challenging for a lot of first-year athletes," said Adams. "She's young for her age even, so just the physical demands of being 17 in this league going against 25 year olds … there's a big difference there. She really stepped up last season and we're continuing to push her to contribute in that way."

What Adams is aiming to see from Farmer is becoming a more complete player, one that also contributes big in rebounding and other statistical categories.

"It's been a big area of focus for her and to her credit she's stepped up and really wanted to improve her rebounding and defence and make an impact in that on the floor," said Adams. "We know she brings a lot to the table. We're pushing her and challenging her to be a well-rounded player for us."

Farmer's gradual mastery of the learning curve mirrors what most of the young Griffins roster is going through. She's noticed their overall game getting cleaner after a disastrous lull in their season opener that yielded a 35-point quarter to cross-town rival Alberta.

"Last weekend, our lulls were smaller," she said. "The second game, we were there, we just couldn't hit baskets. I feel like every day we're improving. We don't have to change the same thing.

"Turnovers are our biggest thing we still need to work on, but our offence is flowing in nicely."