I spent almost of all my time freshman year inside the building that sat at 1800 Engel Rd. Did I live there? No. But many people were under the impression that I did. I lived in Ellsworth, the building right next door, but I spent nearly every waking moment inside the building that never slept– McCollum.

McCollum in 2013
McCollum Hall in 2013

There was something about that building, but not the building itself. The building itself was putrid, but I’ll get to that later. The bonds that everyone created seemed to stick. The friendships seemed nearly reminiscent of movies.

“Oh. We’ve been best friends since freshman year.”

These days, that statement rarely seems to ring true. The new halls with all the fun amenities, like how each room has its own shower and living room space… it’s harder to make friends that way. I would know. I went that route. And I can easily say I’m closer friends with the people I met in McCollum, still today, than I am with the people I shared a building with my freshman year. I rarely see people from E9 (Ellsworth, ninth floor) these days. They’re all caught up in their own lives. When I do, it’s a simple “hey, how have you been,” but really nothing more than that.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve hung out with Tyler, J, Matt, Ben, other Matt and Austin. I saw Zak and Zach when I went out to the bars for my birthday. I met every one of them on the third floor of McCollum.

Some of my most memorable memories of college came inside McCollum during my freshman year. I met my best friend, Tyler, on the first day of move in inside McCollum. I remember when Tyler *thought* he could do a cartwheel. (He was VERY wrong.) (I actually still have this video. Too bad WordPress doesn’t support it.) Or when the entire third floor of McCollum decided to throw a dance party in the lobby.

Every minute in McCollum was certainly one to remember, for the good reasons, the hilarious reasons, or the bad reasons.

Some drunk idiots decided it would be a good reason to mess with the fire extinguishers and set off the smoke detectors. We weren’t let back into Ellsworth for several hours. Thanks to Tyler and his insomnia, he let me crash in his bed while he was out caring for McCollum’s drunk people (or whatever he was actually doing). I remember how the fire alarms would go off, just because, for no rhyme or reason. I remember stressing out over my algebra final in Tyler’s room. I thought I was going to fail it. (I didn’t.) I remember watching Tyler and J play 2K and swear at each other until their hearts were content. (I still have videos of this too.) I remember having Matt and Ben show me the worst movie known to mankind (Poultrygeist).

Even though I haven’t set foot in that building since move out day 2014, I still hold it near and dear to my heart, even though the building had a plethora of structural issues. The pipes ran perpendicular to the ceiling. I don’t know how many times I hit my head on them after taking naps at Tyler’s. The showers would always flood. Seemed like every time I was in the bathroom there was stagnant water on the floor. None of the water fountains ever worked. Hell, Tyler didn’t have a door handle for the longest time.

We called it a million different things, but McCompton was my personal favorite. That nickname came to life after a car backfired and people thought there were gunshots outside.

It’s weird to think that after tomorrow, McCollum will no longer be a fixture on Daisy Hill. It’s been a constant figure on the Hill for years. It’s going to be weird driving north on Iowa and not seeing the charmed 10 story building perched at the top of the hill. I might even get a little emotional.

You best believe I’m staying in Lawrence a little longer over Thanksgiving Break to watch the place where most of my freshman year memories occurred become, well, just that, a memory.

Rest in peace, Big Mac. To many of us, you’ll be more than just a parking lot.

It’s 1:58 p.m. on Wednesday, October 28, 2015. I’m walking northbound on Mississippi Street, near the new apartment complex that’s quickly being erected in Memorial Stadium’s shadow.

I’m giving my mom a call. I knew she had been to the doctor the day before to go over some test results, but that was about the extent of my knowledge.

She picks up.

“How’d the appointment go?” I say, probably not in this exact wording, but it sounds like something I probably would have said.

“I wasn’t going to tell you until this weekend, but it’s cancer,” my mom says.

I let that simmer for a second.

It’s cancer.

Wait. What? Cancer? No. This isn’t real, just like how BYU apparently beat Nebraska off a Hail Mary this season. I was with my mom for an entire long weekend. She looked as if nothing was wrong with her. She works out a lot. She’s always busy. She’s not a home body. She hasn’t smoked a cigarette in over 21 years. She hasn’t drank since the spring.

My mom and I four days before she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
My mom and I four days before she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.

I’ve known so many people with cancer. My track coach died not too long ago from lengthy battles with the disease. One of my close friends in my sorority had cancer when she was younger. My aunt. I could continue my list, but I don’t feel like digging into that.

It’s very different when it hits home like that. I loved my track coach so much. But it’s different when it’s your mom. It’s different when it’s your dad. It’s different when it’s your sibling. It hits home to a completely different level when it’s your immediate family.

I don’t necessarily remember the rest of that conversation from that Wednesday and our conversations from then since have blended together like the multi-quarterback front that Ohio State has been employing the past two seasons. It all just runs together.

I walked through the door to my house on that Wednesday just a few short minutes after talking with my mom. One of my roommates, Robert, happened to be in the living room. For good reason, I apparently looked like I had been tackled by Shawn Oakman.

“You OK?” he asked.

“Nope,” I said, and I explained how my mom had, just a few minutes before, told me about her diagnosis. Robert hugged me in our living room and I let it go.

I’m not a crier. Not like that. Sure, I’ll tear up at Remember the Titans and We Are Marshall, but don’t wail like that. That’s not me. I haven’t bawled like that since. People are telling me it’s OK to cry. I know that. It’s not how I grieve though.

After the initial conversation with my mom, I messaged my editor-in-chief, Katie. Her mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in February. She knew exactly what mental state I was in.

“Believe me, I’ve been there,” she told me. “At this point, honestly there’s not much you can do. You should be with friends and people you’re close with. Whether that’s skyping with a friend or family member, you need to take the night off work and just be. You shouldn’t worry about the Kansan or production. You won’t process this tonight; I didn’t process it until 8 months later. But I think you should focus on doing something for yourself, not work or school related. Just take the time to just be.”

For all of you who know me relatively well, doing things for myself isn’t how I go about my life. I currently have four jobs, three that pay. I’m on one executive board for a student organization and am an officer for another. I’m in 15 credit hours. I try to have a social life, but that doesn’t always happen.

My mom took to social media to tell the world of her diagnosis on the first of November. Just a few days later, she’s already scheduled to have surgery to put in a port for chemo and start that process on Monday. She’s slated to undergo four months of chemotherapy.

As a journalist, I’m naturally inquisitive. I remembered my mom saying something about triple negative. I had no idea what that means. I’m a sports journalist, not a medical journalist. I still don’t know what exactly this all means, but this is what I do know, thanks to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation:

Triple negative breast cancer is named because the cells test negative for three receptors. Those three receptors are Estrogen, Progesterone and HER2/neu. With triple negative breast cancer, the cells test negative in all three of those areas.

Positive? Negative? OK…? So if the tumors are positive, there are many receptors. If they’re negative, there are very few receptors or none. With my mom’s cancer, she has few open wide receivers because the cornerbacks’ coverage is impossible to penetrate. There are lots of treatment options for tumors that test positive, but the same can’t be said for triple negative.

Triple negative breast cancer is a lot more rare than many of the types of breast cancer, but it’s not the rarest. About 10-20 percent of breast cancers are found to be triple negative.

The bad news? Well. There’s a lot but I’m not getting into it.

Have I processed this yet? Nope. Not a chance. I haven’t dwelled on it. My processing of this will probably be very much delayed since I haven’t seen my mom since before her diagnosis. I’ll be headed home next Thursday, as I have a doctor’s appointment of my own on the following Friday morning. My mom will have completed her first week of chemo by that time. It might hit me then. I don’t know.

I’ve tried to relate it to my own terms.

Her doctors are her head coaches, her offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators. Her opponent: a high powered, aggressive Big 12 offense that makes quick progress and a defense that has yet to be scouted. I’m hoping the defense plays like a scout team true freshman rather than a Carl Nassib. Her coaches will be able to scout the defense in due time. The first scripted play they’re running is chemo. As of right now, they’re going with the run game. For four months, they’re going with the run game, in hopes that my mom goes all Samaje Perine on cancer’s ass. The desperation Hail Marys are in the back of the playbook. Her play callers are hoping not to need to use those. As the game runs on, the plays are going to be less and less scripted and become more and more situational.

Me? I’m one of the fans who painted “BOWEN” on their chests after Charlie Weis was fired. Even though it’s uncomfortable at times to be out in the rain or chilly weather without a figurative shirt on, I’ll be there. I have a front row seat to this one and I’m cheering my ass off. Because this isn’t Madden. This is real life.

Phew. October went by fast. As promised, here’s my monthly recap.

October started with a bang. I woke up, like clockwork, on Oct. 1, feeling like garbage. I got up and powered through it, considering I had a busy day scheduled. I had a presentation in Ethics, an appointment with a professor, a paper to turn in and men’s basketball media day. Luckily for me, that day became even more hectic.

As I was sitting in my professor’s office, the lights went out. But it wasn’t just the lights. It was everything. All the power, in Stauffer-Flint at least, had gone out. I, of course, hopped on social media and found out that the power had gone out all over campus. I headed to the newsroom to see what was going on… and volunteered to run all over campus to figure out where the power was on and where it was not.

I went to Haworth, Malott, Summerfield, Murphy, Military Sciences, Anschutz, Robinson, Watkins, the Rec and Wescoe before I was alerted to something else. One of my sisters posted in the our group message that one of the buildings I was headed to next (Snow) was being evacuated due to smoke. I sprinted up the hill and got to Snow just as four firetrucks and several other emergency vehicles were arriving. For a while, no one knew anything, but it was found out that the emergency generator kicked on when the power went out and started producing smoke that went into the air vents.That was all before 1:00. The rest of the day went smoother. I interviewed a lot of men’s basketball players and coaches and went to the doctor. I had a upper respiratory virus that was mimicking Strep. Lovely. Apparently it was incredibly common and there really wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

When I got home, I cleaned my room and my bathroom. [Yep. I even vacuumed and made my bed. (Mom, be proud of me.)] I also did a ton of laundry because I had been too busy. And Day 1 of October was officially over. That was probably one of the craziest days I’d had since stepping on to KU’s campus.

But after that, the rest of the month was a blur until the very end.

Mom and I went to California from Oct. 22 to Oct. 26 so I could accept my award from the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation.

It was so much fun. We toured Santa Anita Park and the Rose Bowl while we were there, as well as had In-N-Out Burger and some more upscale meals than that.

J.A. Adande and I at the banquet.
J.A. Adande and I at the banquet. (I’m wearing my mom’s sweater. Thanks mom.)

During the banquet, I pulled a total Amie.

Everyone who knows me knows I love pasta more than life itself. Everyone know knows me also knows that I’m incredibly clumsy at times. Well, the two went together like ice cream and apple pie.

I’m not sure exactly how the logistics of it all went down, but I ended up with pasta all over my blouse and in my hair…. 15 minutes or so before I’m to be recognized. So, my mom and I head upstairs to the bathroom and determine that my blouse is not salvageable, so it’s tossed. I’m left with my stained white camisole and my perfectly untouched pencil skirt. One of the other award winner’s moms happened to have perfect timing and came into the bathroom as my mom and I are trying to figure this out. She, bless Mrs. Scherer, came up with the idea to use my mom’s sweater as a top. It worked. Most people couldn’t even tell I changed clothes.

When I got back to Kansas a few days later, I thought that life would go back to normal. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

On that Wednesday, just two days after we returned, I called my mom. I knew she had some test results coming back, but I wasn’t too horribly worried, but I waited until I was walking home.

She dropped a bomb on me. It was definitely something I didn’t expect.

“It’s cancer,” she said.

I’m still trying to process everything. I’m still not exactly sure what’s going on. Right now, I’m not good at coming up with words to say about it. I’m going to try to blog it out here soon.

October Articles:

Born, bred and corn fed is how I came to be. Hell, I have a tattoo of a stalk of corn on my right hip is anyone wants to judge my Nebraska-ness.

I grew up in Nebraska. I grew up watching Nebraska football. Watching Nebraska football were my Saturdays (and still are if I’m not working).

After high school, I decided that, even though I love Nebraska and always will, it wasn’t the place for me to further my education. So I went to the land of sunflowers and sunshine (and sons of….. if you’re talking to my dad) to the University of Kansas.

I’m still friends with many people who are die hard Nebraska fans on Facebook. I still have followers who are die hard Nebraska fans on Twitter.

A little bit of a history lesson that most all Nebraska fans know: Nebraska’s last national championship in football came in 1997. I turned three in 1997.

1997 was a long time ago. Bill Clinton was president. A gallon of gas was $1.23. Stamps were $0.32. The number 1 song in January of 1997 was “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton. The Spice Girls came out with “Wannabe” that year. TITANIC CAME OUT IN 1997 and Hercules and Good Burger and Flubber and Bean… Kids who were born in October of 1997 (probably celebratory babies from the national championship) are freshmen in college.

As much as I hate saying this: It’s time to get over it. It’s time to move on. We cannot compare ourselves to the 1990s anymore. Tommie Frazier is 41 now. In the words of Elsa from Frozen: Let it go.

Not everyone can be like Dr. Osborne. He was a great coach for a reason. He had eight 9-3 (sometimes a tie on there too) seasons. Nothing less than that. It also took him 22 seasons to win a national championship. 22 seasons.

Let’s take a look at Riley’s track record.

He’s coached some mediocre Winnipeg Blue Bombers teams, but he also has two Grey Cups (the Super Bowl for the CFL). He’s coached some pretty bad San Diego Chargers teams. He’s coached some pretty bad Oregon State teams. He’s also coached some good ones. From 1997-2014, Riley went to eight bowl games and won six of them. Right now, Nebraska is 2-4 and is most likely going to continue to get worse.

The last time a Nebraska coach had more than four losses on a season was Bill Callahan’s last season in 2007. That year, Nebraska was 5-7. In the history of Nebraska football, not many teams have had 7+ losses.

  • 1899- Nebraska was 1-7 (A.E. Branch).
  • 1942- Nebraska was 3-7 (Glenn Presnell).
  • 1947- Nebraska was 2-7 (Bernie Masterson).
  • 1948- Nebraska was 2-8 (George Clark).
  • 1951- Nebraska was 2-8 (Bill Glassford).
  • 1957- Nebraska was 1-9 (Bill Jennings).
  • 2002- Nebraska was 7-7 (Frank Solich).
  • 2007- Nebraska was 5-7 (Bill Callahan).

The last time Nebraska was 2-4 was 1959 (granted, Nebraska finished 4-6 that season, so it wasn’t as bad as the few seasons above). Alaska and Hawaii came states 49 and 50 that year. 1959 was the year when “The Day the Music Died” actually happened when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper went down in a plane crash. The Barbie doll made its debut. Pantyhose was introduced. Tailfins were still popular. Sleeping Beauty came out.

What are my two cents? Programs have momentum shifts like this all the time across the country. Unfortunately, Nebraska hasn’t had a shift like this since before most of its fans can remember. People born in 1959 turn 56 this year.The team I cover on a daily basis is 0-5, is widely regarded as the worst team in college football and is on pace to have its worst season in program history. But I digress, the situation in Nebraska sucks for the fans, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. It’s most likely, eventually, whether its next season or sometime down the road, going to get better.

Nebraska fans are pissed. I get it. I’m neutral on the situation. As someone from Nebraska, I’m shaking my head at a whole lot of things, but that’s the extent of it.

But just because Nebraska is a transition period and is having the worst season since before we went to the moon doesn’t give y’all the reason to be assholes. Seeing how all y’all are terribly volatile right now makes me incredibly sad and embarrassed to be from Nebraska. People across the country talk about how Nebraska has the best and nicest fans. Right now? No way in hell would I consider Nebraska fans nice people. Not right now. Some of the terrible things I’ve heard in person and seen on social media… be ashamed of yourselves. The people saying those things are making Nebraska look even worse than the situation on the field.

Be frustrated. Want more. Want Riley to be fired after one season or don’t. It doesn’t matter to me. But let go of 1997. And stop being assholes.

1 in 4 college students has a mental health disorder. That big 1,000 student lecture hall you have? Statistically based, 250 of them are battling something mental health related.

Amie Just
My name is Amie. I have multiple mental health disorders.

You don’t think you know anyone? Hi. My name’s Amie.

Over the course of my life I’ve struggled with, and been diagnosed with, five mental health disorders. Some of them have more of an effect on my every day life than others, but how they interact with each other makes everything even more difficult.

Today, I’m currently having a bad day. One of my mental health disorders is playing first fiddle in my life, right now. I’ve had “a bad day” since Saturday. This happens all the time.

On any given night, I never know if I’m going to get a full night’s sleep, thanks to the occasional night terror. I never know how I’m going to feel in the morning. I never know if I’m going to have enough energy and/or strength to make it through the day.

When I trust people enough to tell them that I have these mental health disorders, some of them understand. A lot of people don’t. The stigma that surrounds them sucks.

“Why can’t you just deal with it?”

I try dealing with it. Mental health disorders are a tricky thing. It becomes an even stickier mess when you add more illnesses into the picture. When you have a virus, you have to let it run its course. For me, this is the same way. I HATE the way medicines make me feel. For some people, the various medicines work wonders. But me? I lose every charming characteristic about myself. My sass goes by the wayside. My smile is never around. My jokes don’t happen. My highs and my lows in my mood don’t happen. I’m a constant lull of meh.

I deal with my mental health disorders in the way that’s best for me. Unlike a virus, you can’t catch my PTSD. Coming to the conclusion on how to deal with everything is a constant process and has been a long time coming. How I am at the moment doesn’t mean that’s how it’s going to in the future.

“That’s not a real thing.”

I can assure you mental health disorders are a real thing. They affect my life in very negative ways. I’m not making any of this up. No normal person lies about having any sort of physical illness, so why would I lie about this? For someone to say that mental health disorders aren’t real… I can’t even come up with words to describe how that makes me, and anyone who suffers, feel.

“Can’t you just be happy?”

Everyone has different moods. We’re all human. Several of my moods are linked to my mental health. So no, I’m not always going to be happy. Neither are any of you. When you break up with your significant other, you’re going to have a multitude of emotions. When you get in a car accident, you’re going to have a multitude of emotions. Telling anyone to “just be happy” is not OK. Telling someone who has a mental health disorder, especially depression, to just be happy, is incredibly insensitive.

“So you’re going to shoot up a place when you have a bad day, right?”

Stop. Stop this right now. Mental health plays into the unfortunate situation we have in this country, but just because I, or anyone, has a mental health disorder doesn’t mean we act violently. Not everyone reacts to alcohol the same. Not everyone reacts to tobacco the same. Not everyone reacts to literally anything the same. Stop this. This is not OK.

Oct. 5 is National Day Without Stigma. The stigma that surrounds mental health disorders is a problem. No one talks about it because some people make people with mental health disorders feel like their health isn’t important.

The ignorance around mental health needs to stop. I realize the ignorance and the stigma won’t go away any time soon, but it’s time for progress to be made.

I’m tired of being called “crazy” because I have mental health disorders. All 1 in 4 of us are. We’re not crazy. We have genuine health issues that just happen to affect our head.

Unlike the Green Day song, I most definitely did not sleep through September. I was busy with class, work and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff.

First and foremost, I’m in the running for a scholarship from Dr. Pepper. My focus is how I want to break down the gender barriers in my field. As many of you know, I’m a sports writer. During my day to day work life, I’m always the only female beat writer. I want that to change. We have amazing women in this world who love sports and can write well. I want to break those glass ceilings and one day, become an inspiration for a woman who wants to have a career in sports writing. You can vote once a month. So, please vote for me! You can vote for me here.

This fall, I’m covering the University of Kansas football and men’s basketball teams for the Associated Press. There’s nothing new there. I’m still stringing quotes for the AP during home Kansas City Chiefs games. However, I have a bit of a new thing going on that I’m super excited about. Last season, I wrote about the Chiefs for ChiefsDigest.com. I’m still doing that, but over the summer my wonderful editor and mentor at CD, Herbie Teope, and the great folks over at the Topeka Capitol-Journal entered into this amazing partnership. So now, in addition to that, I’m writing weekly blog posts entitled “Just Verdict” (I’m super stoked about that name, by the way) that focus on one key piece of the game that happened the day or night before, along with my traditional five highs and five lows. Oh. I’m still doing a lot more, too. I still work for the University Daily Kansan, but not in the same capacity that I was last semester. This semester, I retained my correspondent position as the swimming and diving beat writer, but also took on the task of covering Kansas volleyball. (For you college volleyball nuts, Kansas is undefeated (13-0) so far this season. I’m kind of thinking choosing to cover them was a good idea.)

Aside from my journalistic writing positions, I’m the Communications Chair for my sorority (Omega Phi Alpha), as well as the Public Relations Coordinator for the Journalism Student Ambassador Program.

So. Here’s a recap of my September.

September started off with a bang right away with the first game week of the season for football, plus a game week for volleyball. Both of those were home. That Saturday was insane. Kansas football kicked off at 11 a.m. Volleyball had first serve at 4 p.m. I was at both and wrote recaps for both. Needless to say, I was exhausted afterward.

4359211EI’ve continued my triathlon training, but it hasn’t been at the pace I want it to be. (Thanks to my wonderfully busy schedule.) One of my best runs this month came the day after one of my high school track coaches, Andrea Kabourek, passed away after a long and hard fought battle with breast cancer and leukemia. Six miles isn’t much, but for a sprinter who could barely get through 600s in high school, it’s a big step. (Everyone grieves in different ways. I tend to write my face off, regardless if it makes sense or not. Here’s my blog post about her if you care to read it.)

I’ve tried branching out from just focusing on sports writing. I wrote a feature about tattoos and a short-ish research article about the tunnels that run under downtown Lawrence. During my free time (lol. what free time?), I’m going to be researching the heck out of those because I find them super fascinating. Who knows what I’ll dig up. (I have links to every article I’ve penned this semester below if you want to check those out.)

So many things happened with Omega Phi Alpha. We had recruitment one weekend. We took in 28 amazing girls. I cannot wait to get to know them better. I’m taking one of them as my little. As of right now, we haven’t figured out the Big/Little pairings and I’m impatiently waiting for that to happen. We had a crafting sisterhood event. I’m soooooo not crafty, but I’ve been really trying to make cute things for my future little. We went to Mission (it’s a suburb of Kansas City) and teamed up with the American Heritage Girls troop there to make cards and bags for children fighting brain cancer. We also went to Clinton Lake and put up waterfowl houses around the lake. We also had a fundraiser on campus where people could donate money to pie OPA women in the face. I was pied twice. Here’s a video for your viewing pleasure.

I had an interview for a possible internship for next summer. I’m not disclosing who it was with because I don’t want to get anyone’s (or my) hopes up. All I’m saying is, it’s with an amazing company that I would be absolutely honored to intern with and I’m very fortunate that I even landed an interview with them. If I find anything out, I of course, will let everyone know more details than I’m letting on here.

One Thursday, I was selected by the Office of Admissions to speak to potential future Jayhawks in Omaha at the Preview KU-Omaha event. Sharing my story with high school students in my home state was amazing. Seeing them excited to start their own college journey was exciting. I’m honored (I realize I’ve said that a lot, but this month has been full of opportunities that I’m truly honored to have had) and humbled that I’ve potentially helped navigate someone’s college decision. I realize how big of a decision that is and people taking advice from me about their next step is humbling.

Gehring, me, Okmin during the GALvanize bootcamp.
Gehring, me and Okmin during the GALvanize bootcamp.

The last weekend in September, I was selected to participate in the GALvanize Bootcamp. For a little background on that, GALvanize was started by Celeste Gehring (VP of Events and Field Production for FOX Sports) and Laura Okmin (Sideline reporter for NFL on FOX and Westwood One Radio). I spent the majority of the Saturday with 50 or so women, along with Gehring and Okmin, working on empowerment. Everything was amazing. I’m writing two articles about the weekend for the Jayhawk Journalist (the magazine published by the J-School for the alumni). Those articles will be out later this year.

My life has been crazy and it’s going to be even crazier once basketball starts.

Each article that I wrote over the course of September are listed below. Yep. Every one of them.

Articles from September:

It’s inevitable. We all have our time to go. No one’s life lasts forever. But regardless, it still doesn’t seem fair when the ones that give the most and care the most are the first ones out the door.

Yesterday, the world lost one of its most brightest and compassionate people it had to offer.

Andrea Kabourek was more than a high school English teacher. She was more than a track and cross country coach. She was more than a runner. The way she lived her life was an inspiration.

Fittingly, I wore my “I can, I will” shirt yesterday and went on a five mile run dedicated to Coach Kabourek. Little did I know that day was going to be her last day with us.

Describing Coach Kabourek isn’t easy. She’s a million different things all at once. But to me, she’s the first person outside of my family who believed in my journalistic abilities, even though I didn’t make any journalism staff until my senior year of high school. She believed in me when I was a little freshman who was scared to death for her first varsity track meet. She inspired me to keep believing in myself, even though other people told me otherwise.

How? She did it all with poise, tact and a whole lot of humor.

Being diagnosed with cancer once is hard enough. But three times? It takes the strongest of the strong, the most determined of them all, to go through something as taxing as that. But Coach Kabourek did it with as much grace and tact that anyone could.

I remember finding out about her first diagnosis. It was 2009, my freshman year. She took her breast cancer diagnosis in stride. She shaved a her head into a mohawk and dyed it pink. Eventually, after her treatments started, the pink mohawk was no more and Coach was bald with pride. She let us write in sharpies on her head. I wrote “Keep Running, Coach” with a heart just over her ear.

She never once looked defeated, at least not at school and not on the track. She always had a a smile on her face and a just the perfect amount of sass and humor on her lips. During practice that year, she’d run too. It wasn’t fast, but she was running. That motivated me more than anything. If my coach, who has breast cancer, is running right now, I have no excuses, I remember thinking to myself.4359211E

I remember talking with her, the only female coach on the staff at that time, about how I was nervous for my first meet. I was a freshman who made varsity on sprints. I was the only one and I was scared. She told me there was a reason why I made it. If the coaching staff didn’t feel like I could handle it, I would have been placed on JV. She always believed in me when I wasn’t even one of her runners.

She didn’t let anything keep her down. She didn’t just talk about seeing the world from a hot air balloon. She went out and did it. She told us tales of her trips to Hawaii, Greece and Turkey. She told us she wasn’t stopping there. She was going to go to China. She was going to go to Africa. She wasn’t going to let cancer get in the way. And she didn’t.

My junior year, 2011, cancer came back. But it wasn’t breast cancer. This time around, it was leukemia. On April 1st, our coaching staff read a letter from her. It read:

“I am from the mantra “I can, I will.”

I am from beating cancer TWICE because I have an amazing support system of family, friends, colleagues, students, doctors, nurses, and total strangers.

I am from finding the humorous side of everything, as it is important to go through each day knowing what is really important.

I am from the Prison Ward at St. E’s Hospital, cell #505.

I am from decorating my hospital room in a prison theme, complete with a “Jail Sucks” blanket, various shanks and shivs, and a set of new handcuffs.

I am from keeping a positive self-image, no matter what kinds of tests and challenges are thrown at me.

I am from modeling how to deal with adversity—using the strongest tool I know: humor.

I am from staying focused, remaining mentally tough, and exuding confidence.

I am from missing my East High family everyday, but I know that you all will do everything in your power to be successful.

I am from believing that the four words, “I can, I will,” are much more powerful than the three words: “You have cancer.”

I did not want to have to start out fourth quarter dancing between the hospital and my home receiving chemo treatments for leukemia, but sometimes there is a reason why we need to face this obstacle. I know that I am here to show others that adversity and change does not have to be terrifying, and when you find yourself facing a difficult problem, you don’t just look the other way and give up. My job is to make each day a positive experience—a day full of laughter is my ideal. Certainly, the joke is that I am incarcerated in this jail cell (and will be for several days through the upcoming months), but the reality is that these four walls cannot contain me, my spirit is too strong and too resilient, and cancer will not win this time either.

Please know that you are always willing to contact me by email and if you would like to come visit me, I would love to see you. I will be alternating between St. E’s hospital and my home, as I maneuver my way through the rounds of treatments. Please email first to get my latest location, and if you do come to see me, make sure you are healthy, because my immune system will be pretty weak from the chemo. I love you all, and it will be very difficult for me to not see you everyday.  

I love you. I’m sorry I won’t be here to teach you. I will be thinking of you consistently. But know I am doing everything in my power to get healthy, so I can return this fall.

Mrs. Kabourek”

Reading her blog, “Life From a Metaphorical Prison” helped us cope as she took on, and eventually beat, the leukemia. She posted visitors logs, updates on what she did that day and super random other things that kept her spirits high. She tried incorporating humor into every post. I think that’s what kept all of us, and her, sane.

Even though she wasn’t on the sidelines I remember her saying how proud she was of our 4×400 team that season. We made it to state and ran the 6th fastest time in school history. (I checked. No one has gone faster than us since.) 579350_3896900262044_546010942_n

I transferred after my junior year to Southeast, but that didn’t stop me from taking in everything. Coach still came up to me after my races, telling me how proud of me she was. That meant the most to me.

In August 2014, Coach was diagnosed with cancer for the third time. This time her breast cancer metastasized to her lungs. I saw all of the posts on Facebook and Twitter. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that she had beaten it all already. I was in awe that it came back for yet another time. No one said it, but everyone feared she wouldn’t bounce back from this one. She held on for over a year, thanks to the chemo.

Thank you Coach for everything. You were such an integral force in my life for my three years at East. I remember talking with you about not making either of the yearbook or newspaper staffs for two years in a row. I remember crying in your classroom because, by not making it, I felt I wasn’t talented enough to pursue a career in journalism. You told me that if I really wanted it, I could do it. I’d find the strength within myself to make it work. Thank you for giving me that boost of confidence.

You were the strongest person I know, hands down. Cancer didn’t win. You did and you did it so gracefully. You beat it time and time again. Rest in peace, Coach. Keep running.

I leave you all with her last blog post:

“I went to the DMV last week to apply for a handicapped-parking permit. For the record, this is not where you go to do this—you have to go to the state building downtown. I didn’t have enough battery life on my portable oxygen backpack, so I had turned it off, making my DMV experience even more “life-sucking” than usual. On my way out, the “Nebraskans for the Death Penalty” accosted me for my signature. In my lack-of-oxygen haze, I didn’t reply back with something clever and witty, although I should have said this: “I already have the death penalty, lady: it’s called metastatic breast cancer.”
This morning, Brian and I went to the doctor, and we were faced with the same scenario: the [cancer] death penalty. Going into the appointment, I knew that I was running out of chemo options, and my deteriorating breathing convinced me that the current regimen was probably not being very effective either.
What I did not expect to hear was such a short timeline. Last fall, when I was diagnosed with “metastatic” (stage 4—spread elsewhere—in my case, mostly to my lungs) breast cancer, my doctor told me I had maybe two months to live or I could do chemo. Obviously, I chose the chemo route, and, in the meantime, I managed to live my life according to my true “I CAN. I WILL!” style—taking on new experiences from skydiving to African safaris. While it wasn’t surprising, since I have now been completely dependent on an oxygen machine to breath, I did not like the fact that my current timeline was cut much shorter—to a week or two.
Despite facing three cancer diagnoses in the past five and a half years, cancer has never felt like a “death sentence” to me. Why? Because even though there were a lot of lethal injections involved, I always had my “inmates” to back me up. I know that I am very lucky to have the best friends, families, and supporters in the world. I love you all.
Andrea Kabourek”

Less than a week after moving in to my cute little house, I’ve completely unpacked and am settled in.

It took me two days to get most everything finished, but there was one box I kept forgetting to unpack. Today, it finally went out to the recycle bin.

I haven’t had any difficulties since moving in, except our washer is possessed and it’s incredibly difficult to turn on the shower. There’s a little pull thing on the faucet? I’ve never seen that before. And our microwave doesn’t exactly open all the way either. Oh well.

Here’s a photo tour of the house (minus my roommates’ bedrooms and their bathroom)!



Dearest BR,

From March 2010 to August 2015, we’ve been basically inseparable… for the most part. Our on again, off again relationship since August 2013, well, you knew it wasn’t going to be like it was in the good ole days, right? You knew it had to end eventually.

Tomorrow morning, I’m officially leaving you, even though we’ve already said our goodbyes. It’s weird, looking at you now. It’s like I don’t even recognize you.

Don’t be too upset. I inadvertently left some strands of hair and dead skin cells for you to remember me by. I might have left an old bobby pin too, if you’re lucky.

We’ve had a pretty decent run, you and me. Granted, we’ve had our differences. You weren’t always the nicest to me.

Remember how every summer you’d decide that I was too good for air conditioning and you basically forced me to sleep in the basement? And every winter you decided to keep it so cold that I needed at least 12 blankets or I was afraid I’d get frostbite? Thanks for that.

I guess I wasn’t the best person to you, either.

Remember that time when that bottle of aloe vera exploded all over you and left massive blue stains everywhere and regardless of how much stain cleaner I used, it just wouldn’t come out? Or when I decided rearranging my furniture was a good idea and then I left black marks all over you? Sorry about that.

Besides those things, you were great.

You’d let me jam out to everything from Wiz Khalifa to Jason Aldean and you wouldn’t really care. You didn’t mind having me clothes all over the floor when I was too lazy to do laundry. You’d let me vent about my frustrations and (hopefully) not judge me for them. You kept the light out when I was sick and wanted to sleep through the day. Because of all of those things and more, you were basically the best.

I’m sorry that I’m leaving you, but then again, I’m really not that sorry. I have bigger and better things to move on to. Sure, I’ll probably see you again, but I won’t hang around for long.

Best of luck to whoever you end up with next. Just remember, I wasn’t your first and I won’t be your last. Someone new will come into your life eventually. But, it just won’t be me.

Good luck out there.



“If only these walls could talk…”– Gregg Olsen

The past two days have been a rollercoaster of emotions. When big things start creeping up on the calendar, I get a little anxious. Nothing too crazy, but the emotions are still there.

August 1. Today was the last day that I would find out if I won the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation scholarship. I tried keeping myself busy so I wouldn’t think about it. I went to Hobby Lobby, Scheel’s and went to get my car washed. As my car was covered in suds, I realized I missed a call… from Beverly Hills. I immediately gave the number a call back. It was Linda McCoy-Murray, Jim Murray’s widow and the CEO and Founder of the JMMF. She was calling to tell me that my column was one of the five national winners. I was (and still am) in shock. I couldn’t believe something I wrote is something of that high of caliber. I also couldn’t believe I won $5,000.

I started the process back in April. I spent the week of April 20-27 slaving over my computer in the library, researching what I was going to write about.

The prompt was to “write a column that tells the story of an event, incident or person who figures prominently in the sports history of your university. It could be a memorable game, or coach, or player, or even an artifact that has become an indelible part of the story of your college (or maybe town).”

After a meeting or two with Professor Scott Reinardy, we came to the conclusion that the story of Cliff Cushman was one that needed telling. The following is a summary about him. I’ll be sure to share my column when it’s published.

Cliff Cushman. Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald
Cliff Cushman. Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald

Cushman was a hurdler for the University of Kansas from 1958-1961, and won the NCAA title in the 400-meter hurdles in 1960. In that same year, Cushman earned the Silver medal at the Olympics in that same event. Four years later, Cushman was expected to win on the Olympic level, but fell in the Olympic Trials. After that, he retired from track and field and continued his service in the Air Force.

Just a little over two years later, Cushman received his notice that he was going over to Vietnam. He felt that he wasn’t going to come back, and tried purchasing a life insurance policy from his best friend. But he couldn’t.

Cushman wasn’t over in Vietnam more than 60 days before he was shot down by enemy fire. His body was never recovered. He was listed as Missing in Action for nine years before being officially declared as dead.

Winning this award means so much to me, but it means even more to me that I put Cushman’s story out there. Before writing this I didn’t know a thing about him. As a Jayhawk, that’s not right. In his honor, I’m dedicating this award to Cliff Cushman. He made the ultimate sacrifice.

Even though I’m a journalist, I’m having a hard time putting my feelings into the right words. Without being guided by two of my bosses, Dave Skretta and Herbie Teope, former editors Blake Schuster and Brian Hillix, current editor Emma LeGault, fellow Murray Scholar Mike Vernon and advisor Scott Reinardy, I don’t know if I would be at the place in my writing that I am now. I realize there is still progress to be made with my writing, but winning this award gives me encouragement that I am on the right path.

Thanks to everyone for all the support over the years. I appreciate every one of you who continues to believe in me.