ROYERSFORD >> Whether we know it or not, our heroes walk among us every day.
They’re in the aisles at the supermarket, beside us at the gym and walking down the driveway to pick up their newspaper each morning.
Gabby Hegedus gets to see her hero every single day.
On any given game night, the Spring-Ford junior can look into the stands and catch her hero shining back upon her at any moment.
Gabby’s mother, Karen Hegedus, is in the midst of her second bout with Stage 4 Metastatic breast cancer after going into remission in 2013.
Metastatic describes breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body. Most commonly, metastatic breast cancer arises months or even years after a person has completed treatment for early or locally advanced breast cancer, according to the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. It’s estimated that at least 154,000 people in the country have metastatic breast cancer.
Even amid her exhausting battles — trips to Bryn Mawr Hospital for various checkups, chemotherapy and radiation — Hegedus has been to nearly all of her daughter’s volleyball games this season.
“It makes me feel really special to have her here because she can’t coach or play anymore,” said Gabby Hegedus of her mother. “So I know what it means for her to be able to be here cheering me on.”
While Gabby spends her days cheering on her mother throughout her personal battle, being present in the stands at her daughter’s games gives Karen a chance to return the favor.
“It brings me joy watching her play now,” said Karen, who coached at Upper Dublin High School before taking over Spring-Ford’s inaugural program from 2002 until 2011. “She’s been in the gym since she was a baby. Gabby used to run around the gym with my whistle and have fun playing with the girls while I coached. It’s been special to watch her grow up with the sport.”
You can certainly mark Karen present for this Monday night’s game as Spring-Ford hosts rival Perkiomen Valley in a Dig Pink Breast Cancer Awareness game. The junior-varsity game starts up at 5:30 p.m. with the varsity game to follow.
The night will feature a Survivor/Warrior Recognition ceremony, an honor wall to applaud several breast cancer awareness organizations, memorable giveaways, pink refreshments and T-shirts offered throughout to go along with plenty more excitement inside Spring-Ford High School’s Ram Gymnasium.
Game admission will be $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for students as all proceeds from the event will be donated to local breast cancer organizations including ‘Unite for Her,’ ‘For Pete’s Sake,’ and ‘Cleaning For A Reason’ as well as the national ‘Side-Out Foundation.’
The event promises to hit home for the Hegedus family with Gabby and Karen right at the heart of it.
Inspired by her mother’s battle, Gabby took it into her own hands to get the ball rolling on her team’s Dig Pink night this season.
“It’s been a ton of work putting all of this together, but I know this event will be worth it,” she said, “not just for my mom, but for all the warriors and survivors, too. I’m so excited for this game … it’s a game everyone loves.”
And she’s hoping this season is the biggest one yet.
“This year, we’re trying to get a lot of the students to come out because last year there weren’t that many,” she added. “We want this place (Spring-Ford) to be packed and full of life when we play.”
Full of life, just like her mother has been all throughout her journey.
Karen Hegedus was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 at the age of 39. A grueling 18 months later, after surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, she went into remission in September of 2013.
Over the next two years, Hegedus’ life returned to normal. She returned to work, spent time with her friends and family and even trained to run in a Warriors’ 5k race.
Then in November 2015, that all changed once again.
Hegedus’ cancer returned stronger than ever as it had metastasized to her bones and eventually to her liver and her chest wall.
“It’s been hard,” she said, “for all of us. Unfortunately my kids have seen things that no teenager wants to see.
“Initially, the first time when Gabby was younger, she was very angry and very upset. Now she’s taken the time and she understands — she’s matured.”
“I’ve seen my mom go into chemo a couple of times, and that’s been hard to watch,” said Gabby, “but she’s stayed strong the whole time.”
All their lives, volleyball has been a cornerstone of the Hegedus’ lifestyle.
It’s been all the talk around the family dinner table.
It’s been the game that Gabby has come to love as she’s climbed up through the ranks.
And it’s been the welcomed lighter side of life for the Hegedus family during the darkest days.
“I’ve learned over the last couple of months that it’s OK to have those sick days, especially when my family is around,” Karen Hegedus said. “They’ve been with me every step of the way throughout my fight.”
And they’ll certainly be there together on Monday night.
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The Dig Pink Rally is the Side-Out Foundation’s fall event that brings together players from across the nation — grade school up through college-level students — to raise funds for breast cancer research. Monday night’s Dig Pink event at Spring-Ford High School will get underway with JV starting up at 5:30 p.m. with varsity to follow.
Donations can be made at the door and throughout the evening’s events.