Oct. 28, 2010
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Four years ago, Teresa Pugh rarely felt well. She made trips to the hospital so often that it almost became routine.
She got the diagnosis before her two sons heard the news. And for a while, she kept that news from them. Her boys were in school, and nothing, in her mind, was going to derail their paths to a college education.
Not even breast cancer.
Finally, she had to tell them.
"She's a strong black woman. A very strong black woman," says Fayetteville State sophomore wide receiver Jamere Pugh (Henderson, NC). "She didn't want her sons to know about it because we were in school. And then it got to the point where she had to tell us. It had gotten to a point where she was going to the hospital and spending weeks and weeks in the hospital. We were wondering why she stayed sick all the time."
It was a staggering blow to a strong family.
"When she told us, it was this horrible downward feeling," says Jamere. "The first thing I was thinking was, `I hope my mother doesn't die.'"
Teresa Pugh underwent several rounds of chemotherapy. The cancer then went into remission. That was in 2007.
A year ago, it came back.
It's been a trying time for the Pugh family. Jamere is emerging as an offensive threat every week for the Broncos - he scored two touchdowns in last week's Homecoming game against Livingstone - but it's the daily phone calls home that he relishes the most.
Of course, sometimes those are just as hard as eluding a sprinting free safety.
"I call her every day, and I ask her how she's doing," Jamere says. "She'll say she's doing fine, but some days you know she's doing fine, and other days, you can tell she doesn't want me to know how she's really feeling. I can kind of figure when she's down because of the way she talks. I don't try to comment too much about it with her because I know how she feels, and I don't like to talk about it either."
But there Teresa Pugh is on every Saturday, watching her son play. She doesn't like to talk about her fight, but listen to a cancer patient speak, and you will hear them break a single day down in one of two ways - it was a good day, or a bad day. It is Teresa Pugh's mission to make sure her son sees only the good days.
Even when it's a bad one.
"Even when she's not feeling well," Jamere says, "she doesn't tell me until after she's left."
It's a lesson that has not been lost on Jamere.
"I learned from my mother to always hang in there," he says. "Don't give up. No matter what the situation is, stay strong, stay positive. Even though things might be going the wrong way, to still have joy in yourself, to still have faith in God, because God answers prayers."
At 1 p.m. on Saturday against Johnson C. Smith, the Fayetteville State Broncos will commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing flashes of the color pink on their uniforms. Players will wear pink shoelaces on the cleats, wear pink wristbands and the quarterbacks and seniors will display pink towels. The coaching staff will wear pink ribbons on their shirts or hats.
Several Broncos players have been affected by breast cancer in their families, while others have lost members of their families to other forms of cancer.
"Some of the players have been wearing some pink the last four weeks, and that shows how they feel about the cause," says Broncos coach Kenny Phillips. "We're looking forward to Saturday."
Jamere Pugh, with Teresa in the stands at Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium, will take it a step further. On his pink receiving gloves, he'll write his mother's initials.
"It's going to mean a lot to me," Jamere says of the team wearing pink. "To have seen my mother suffer the way she has suffered, from a couple of years ago to where she is now, how it's made her stronger, how it's made her a better person - it's going to mean everything. It'll definitely be a day I'll never forget.
"Anybody that wears pink, I just thank them. They're letting everyone know that they support people who have been affected by breast cancer. I just thank everybody for wearing pink."
And if Jamere could find the end zone again on Saturday?
"It would go straight to her," he says, his eyes wide with pride. "Straight to her."