Updated: October 18, 2013 2:25PM
My mom had already beaten breast cancer once by the time she became my Little League coach. She was tough — a few parents from other teams even thought she pushed our team a little too hard. But she pushed us because she believed in our abilities and she wanted us to believe in ourselves.
Because of this, my sister Bailey and I grew to love softball. And through the years, my mom never gave up on us. She and my dad, Biff, attended almost every practice and game, from Little League to travel ball and then our NCAA Division I games.
In the fall of 2009, I was finally living my dream as a Division I student softball player at Virginia Tech. But that all changed when my mom pulled up to take me home for a weekend with our family.
The drive began like any other trip. My mom and I made small talk about classes and dining halls. We were about 100 miles from home when the call came from her doctor. Alone with my mom and the monster of her stage-four breast cancer diagnosis, those were the longest 100 miles of my life.
I couldn’t stop crying, and I didn’t want to see the strongest woman I knew breaking down. So for miles, she patiently rubbed my back, and when I finally looked into her eyes, I saw she wouldn’t let cancer break her. More than four years later, cancer still hasn’t broken my mother; it has merely given her another way to inspire us.
It wasn’t easy, but even through intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments, my mom never missed a game. More than 10 years after she had inspired 9-year-olds on their first softball diamond, she was inspiring a collegiate team full of young women. Last winter, athletes and coaches throughout the athletic department came together to make a video thanking my mom for her inspiration and encouraging her to stay “Hokie Strong.”
A few weeks ago, when we played the Chicago Bandits in a regular season series, the team took the time to honor my mom. She couldn’t be there, but through video chat on my phone, she saw our picture on the big-screen scoreboard and the standing ovation Chicago fans gave her. It was an incredibly powerful moment for us both.
Today, whenever I step onto the field in a professional softball uniform, my mom is smiling down at me from the stands. She looks at me and waves, so proud of the athlete and woman I have become. I smile and wave back as I tie a pink ribbon into my ponytail, a small reminder of one reason I still play softball with all of my heart: because my mom wouldn’t have it any other way.
NY/NJ Comets player Courtney Liddle will be in Chicago Aug. 22-24 for Fastpitch’s championship series. For tickets and more information, visit Championship.profastpitch.com.