Time to help a neighbor.
Mallory Blanton is ready to begin her fifth year as the Toronto girls basketball program.
The early years weren't easy.
The Red Knights had a 37-game losing streak before a simple win on Dec. 2, 2011, got the girls their first taste of victory in two years.
"I can't even explain how good that feels," she said that night. "Last year was so rough and we started this year rough, but tonight's motto was prove a point and we did that. I'm happy with that."
Rough doesn't entail what Blanton has gone through since January.
She found out in November that she and husband Jake were pregnant and on the road to having their first child.
According to sister Jessica Moore, the first set of complications with the pregnancy came up on Jan. 4.
Blanton was diagnosed with gestational trophoblastic disease due to complications from a molar pregnancy.
According to cancer.org, "GTD is a group of rare tumors that involve abnormal growth of cells inside a woman's uterus. GTD does not develop from cells of the uterus like cervical cancer or endometrial (uterine lining) cancer do. Instead, these tumors start in the cells that would normally develop into the placenta during pregnancy.
GTD begins in the layer of cells called the trophoblast that normally surrounds an embryo. (Tropho- means nutrition, and -blast means bud or early developmental cell.) Early in normal development, the cells of the trophoblast form tiny, finger-like projections known as villi. The villi grow into the lining of the uterus. In time, the trophoblast layer develops into the placenta, the organ that protects and nourishes the growing fetus.
Most GTDs are benign (not cancer) and they don't invade deeply into body tissues or spread to other parts of the body. But some are malignant (cancerous). Because not all of these tumors are cancerous, this group of tumors may be referred to as gestational trophoblastic disease, gestational trophoblastic tumors, or gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. (The word neoplasia simply means new growth.)
All forms of GTD can be treated. And in most cases the treatment produces a complete cure."
Blanton underwent a D&C, but it was not fully successful, meaning she fell into the 10 percent category where chemotherapy was the next form of treatment.
"The chemo regiment that was designed usually is very effective and it is rare that it does not work," said Moore. "It did not work for her, so she had to have surgery."
That surgery, a hysterectomy, took place two weeks ago.
"As of right now, they are telling us that unless there was some kind of cells hidden, she is cancer free and can resume all normal activities," said Moore.
Blanton is loved by her players. She is like a mother to them.
She loves them and kicks them in the behind when needed. They understand where she is coming from because Blanton was a standout player for the Red Knights and then for Muskingum University.
She pushes her players and they understand why.
Going through this, her players now see another side of toughness from Blanton.
The coach is strong and it's kind of hard for the players to complain about what she puts them through in practice when they witness what she is going through in life.
"We actually found out they wanted to take the baby from her the night of the Wellsville game at Wellsville," said Moore. "She still wanted to go do the game to be with her girls. She said there was nothing she could do for her baby, but there were 20 other girls who needed her."
Part of being a member of the team is going through the good and bad together.
Sometimes you are there to do the leaning and sometimes you are the wall.
There is no doubt that Blanton needs her players and the players need her.
"Everybody had been great though this whole ordeal," said Moore. "She has been wonderful. She has been a trooper throughout this whole thing. Her and Jake wanted to try everything possible to have a family. They were very optimistic. They always have a good outlook on everything. They stayed positive.
"She's had wonderful family support - our family, her in-laws and her husband. They have been by her side throughout everything.
"She's stronger than I ever could be. I'm not sure if I could ever go through this."
A spaghetti dinner will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Karaffa Middle School to help defray the cost of the surgery. There will be a chinese auction, a 50/50 and a bake sale.
If you would like to help with a donation of any kind, contact Moore at (740) 632-6093.
Blanton is a really good coach, but, more importantly, a really good person.
I am fortunate to be the head coach of the Jefferson County Christian girls team and the Red Knights easily could have scored a zillion on us last year, but didn't.
(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)