During the month of October, athletic teams of all levels across the country don pink to honor those currently battling or who have battled breast cancer.
Windermere Prep hosted its 11th annual “Dig Pink” night Oct. 6 during its game against Cornerstone Charter. After having to scale down last year’s game because of the pandemic, things returned to a relative normal this year, with fans packing the stands and a pregame ceremony to honor breast cancer survivors.
Junior Danielle Work played in honor of her mother, Shannon, who has been cancer free for the last eight years after battling breast cancer twice. Shannon was first diagnosed in 2010, when Danielle was in kindergarten.
“(Because) I was in kindergarten, I don’t have too many strong memories of it, which is probably for the best,” Danielle Work said.
Shannon Work, a NICU doctor at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, said she was devastated when she was diagnosed in August 2010. It’s something she never expected to hear, but there was a blessing that came out of it.
“I’m lucky that we caught it early when we did,” Shannon said. “It took four days to go from my mammogram to receiving my diagnosis. I was confident in the team I was working with and that I was in good hands.”
She had a double mastectomy that September before beginning chemotherapy in October. She endured six months of that before going through radiation for five weeks.
Shannon Work later had a recurrence in 2013, which she said was even more devastating. Even so, she was confident using the same team of doctors with whom she worked during her first bout.
The experience of two cancer battles has given Shannon Work a renewed love of life and a new perspective.
“Live every day to the fullest and take nothing for granted,” Shannon Work said. “We don’t think much past every day. When something like this happens, it teaches you to appreciate everything that comes your way.”
For the Lakers who played in the Dig Pink game — which Windermere Prep won in three consecutive sets — taking the court meant they were playing for something bigger than themselves.
“It brings awareness to breast cancer not just here, but in the community, as well,” Danielle Work said. “Seeing our posters and those of former players is also such an awesome thing to see and be a part of.”
Danielle Work ended up with 11 kills on the night to lead the Lakers to victory over the Ducks. All the proceeds from the game will benefit local breast cancer awareness charities.
The idea for the Dig Pink game was conceived by former high school Volleyball Coach Rick Dunetz, after his mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. He chose to utilize dedicated volleyball matches across the U.S. to tell her story and garner support for specialized research. This concept has grown into a hugely popular event in the U.S.