I recall my apprehension after getting a text from my previous volleyball captain asking me whether I would like to continue Dig Pink at our school. Coming into a new season, I was afraid of the new leadership position, worried about living up to her achievements with the “Play for Pink” campaign, and uncertain I could make such a big impact off the court.
However, my feelings soon changed. I remember stepping into the first class of the year at Taejon Christian International School in South Korea. I found my teacher absent. I was told she had been diagnosed with breast cancer over the summer and was undergoing treatment. My heart went out to her, and I became determined to overcome my fears and take this opportunity to start a new tradition.
Learning More About Breast Cancer
At this time, I received the excellent opportunity to meet with a breast cancer surgeon at Ewha Womans University Hospital. I needed to educate myself about breast cancer before starting a campaign about it. My friend’s father was a breast cancer surgeon, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to learn about the treatment process patients go through. According to the Global Cancer Observatory, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in South Korea, with 59.4% of cases falling into this category (Korea, Republic of Source: Globocan 2018).
The surgeon explained the different treatments patients undergo, such as chemotherapy, radiation and endocrine therapy, or immunotherapy. Chemotherapy takes about six months to completely kill the cancer cells. However, it can also destroy other healthy cells in the body, making it a painful process. I realized that it takes so much courage and will for these patients to fight through breast cancer.
Doing More To End Breast Cancer
When I detailed our teacher’s situation to my teammates and why we should help cancer patients, they were excited for another year of Dig Pink and determined to support our teacher. We all agreed to design pink jerseys as substitutes for our white home jerseys for the event. After creating a logo with our school’s dragon mascot and a ribbon, my friend and I collaborated to produce a promo video for the campaign. I posted it and the logo on Facebook, asking everyone to “Keep Playing Pink” this fall season.
Then, I personally contacted the teachers at our school to promote the campaign, and they were willing to share my post. My friend who helped with the logo also designed a new pink t-shirt to sell to our school community. Additionally, I ordered a variety of pink merchandise, which is not very familiar in Korea.
I was further determined to bring this event to our small school community when my teacher emailed me, saying how she felt very touched when she learned we were holding this event. She said that this opportunity gave her courage and strength to fight. She also explained how she wanted students to understand that cancer can easily be prevented with healthy eating and lifestyle habits. I was surprised to learn so much about breast cancer and came to a final goal for this event: I wanted our small school community of 350 students to come together to connect with this teacher battling breast cancer and learn the importance of raising funds to help people like her.
The event day finally arrived, and we were able to sell out all the pink merchandise, raising $925, which greatly exceeded our goal of $500. Everyone looked outstanding in the pink merchandise, and all the teams dedicated pink sportswear for this event. There was a huge pink wave for the pep rally, and games that tied in with the meaning of breast cancer awareness were held before the volleyball games. Right before the warmups, I particularly remember standing in front of the 350 students and teachers, thanking every single person in that gymnasium for supporting such a meaningful event. Afterwards, many teachers and students commented how this event made them think of something beyond the wins and losses.
Organizing a Dig Pink event changed how I thought about this season. My worries about winning and losing no longer mattered as I realized the power of the love in our community: the greatest success comes from the love we share with the people around us. We were all in for this one teacher, and I believe that our community was using its passion and love for sports to help others. I am so proud of bringing a new spirit and tradition into our small school with Dig Pink and the support we have given to our beloved teacher.