MMS basketball girls help teammate through cancer diagnosis
Jasmine Estey joined the Meyer Middle School girls' basketball team in October. She almost wasn't able to play basketball, said her mom, Melissa Hejl. Sometimes, Hejl said, she wondered how things would have gone if Estey hadn't joined the team.
"They're the biggest supporters that she's got," Hejl said.
Estey was diagnosed with osteosarcoma early this year.
Around Christmastime, Estey's coach Chantele Torrez said Estey started complaining of hip and leg pain. At first, Torrez thought it was a basketball injury.
"It just didn't seem to ever get any better," Torrez said, "and was constantly getting worse."
Estey's mom took her to the doctor. In January, the team got the news that Estey had osteosarcoma in her hip, pelvis and leg.
Estey has been through surgery to remove part of her hip, pelvis and femur, and has 11 weeks of chemotherapy left. Following that, she will have reconstructive surgery on her bones.
Once she has healed from the surgery, she hopes to run and play basketball again, said Hejl.
"She has been amazing," said Hejl. "At 13 years old, I would never have handled it like this. She's always got a smile on her face. She's tough. She's always happy.
"She's the kid at the hospital who plays pranks on the nurses and the doctors to keep the mood light."
Estey's grandma Leslie Hendrickson said Estey was "dealt a horrible blow" and has remained positive in what can be a very difficult situation to face.
"She faced it with positivity, grace and the most amazing, infectious smile," Hendrickson said. "Anyone she encounters at the hospital, and those charged with her care while she's there, always talk about what a wonderful girl she is, a joy to be around."
Though Estey has handled everything well, she hasn't done it alone. Her grandparents have been supportive, Hejl said, as well as other family members. She's had friends and family supporting her every step of the way, Hejl said.
Estey has also been lifted and encouraged by her basketball team.
"It's been a beautiful thing to see," said Hejl. "And to have them there for Jasmine and everything that they've done for her. She's not at any point felt alone. I can't even describe how grateful we are for everything that they've done."
"We did a meal train this winter," said Torrez. "A lot of the basketball girls took it upon themselves, and they ordered a bunch of Pura Vida bracelets."
The proceeds from the bracelets go to bone cancer research.
The team also held a benefit at a basketball game, Torrez said, and have worked hard to stay in touch with Estey and her family.
Since the team hadn't seen Estey in awhile, especially since school has been out, they took her out bowling Wednesday, June 19, to "put a smile on her face," Torrez said, and to help Estey take her mind off things.
"It's been amazing to see the support," Hejl said. "And the school and all the students, and just the town."
She said she can't describe how much the support has meant to her and her family.
Hendrickson said Estey has big plans for the future.
"She's looking forward to playing basketball again," said Hejl, "being able to run and swim, and jump and play, and be a kid again."
For now, Estey's movements are limited, due to the surgery she had to remove the tumor. But, Hejl said, she's looking forward to seeing her daughter play basketball again.
"I want her to be able to be a kid again," said Hejl. "She has had to do some adult stuff, and go through some adult stuff that she shouldn't have to know about.
"And that's hard, but it's almost over, and I can't wait."