The Fighting Scots took to the soccer field in a different color than the traditional orange and white Wednesday, Oct. 16. The men and women’s teams came out sporting blue shirts in an effort to raise awareness for colon cancer and to support their teammate Conner McCarty.
Bobi Trainor Norman, McCarty’s mother, died from the disease in July.
She was diagnosed in November of 2009.
She went to the doctor after feeling some irregular pain in her back, and the doctors found that she had stage four colon and liver cancer. Soon after the diagnosis, she had surgery to remove her colon, as well as the infected parts of her liver, saving all that could be saved.
After the surgery, the doctors gave her six weeks to live.
At the time, McCarty was in the middle of his freshman year of high school.
“Everyone in the room was real quiet,” McCarty said, recalling his first time seeing her after the diagnosis. “But I walked up to her and looked her in the eye and said, ‘I’m sorry, Mom, but you can’t die right now. We’ve got too much to look forward to.’”
While that may have seemed to push the boundaries of tough love, McCarty explained it was fitting, given just how close his relationship with his mother was.
“My brother’s just like my dad. He takes after him. They have the same personality and everything,” McCarty said. “I take after Mom. I’m literally just like her. She was more than my mother; she was my best friend, too.”
According to McCarty, upon the grave diagnosis, the atmosphere actually lightened around the house. McCarty said that his family made sure to enjoy life each and every day, as they lived by the motto that “there is no guarantee of a tomorrow.”
Norman fought hard as the six-week diagnosis the doctors first levied passed and she continued pushing beyond what the family could have hoped for.
Throughout the family’s battle with cancer, McCarty said he found solace and his own way to support his mom by being on the soccer field. Starting his freshman year at Bearden, he dedicated his play on the field to Norman. She was on the sidelines cheering his whole life, McCarty said, and rarely missed games.
“It was hard to look over to the sidelines and see her cheering and justify not giving it everything I had,” McCarty said. ”It was constant motivation.”
Round after round of chemo staved the cancer off as the months and then years passed. Her stubborn spirit and incredible attitude through the ups and downs of the situation showed, as she was fueled by the support she received from loved ones.
“I’ve seen more than your average 18-year-old. No one should have to drive their parent to the hospital every morning to get chemo. No one wants to see that. I’m not complaining that it’s not fair, I’m stronger because of it,” McCarty said. “I was always there for her. We were in it together.”
Norman saw her son graduate high school in 2012. She also saw his performance on the soccer field earn interest from Maryville College. After being recruited by the local Scots, McCarty said there was no way he was allowed to go anywhere else.
Starting as a freshman in 2012, McCarty was tied for team scoring leader.
However, in January, Bobi’s condition worsened. The decision was made to stop the chemotherapy. She had been doing treatments at the highest legal dosage and to continue at that rate was a bigger threat than any illness.
As summer arrived her body became more and more frail, crippled by the disease. Simple tasks, such as climbing stairs, proved impossible, according to McCarty.
“I had to carry her up and down the stairs, also feeding her at rougher times. I wasn’t the only one helping. My grandparents and Tim, my stepfather, were also there, and they were huge in helping her,” McCarty said. “It was just understood that I would always be there to help as well.”
The doctor’s six weeks to live had been extended greatly, as she passed away on July 8 of this year at the age of 43, three years and eight months since being diagnosed.
“I don’t want people coming and saying how sorry they am for me. I hate that,” McCarty said. “I feel relieved that she’s no longer in pain, and lucky that I’ve got to spend the past three years with her.”
This season had been different for McCarty as he strives to find a new cause for motivation.
“It’s hard looking over there and not see her on the sidelines, or even when I go home and come down the stairs,” McCarty said. “For the last three years, I’ve been playing for her, but now I feel that I’m living for her every day.”
The past three years, soccer served as a continued stance against the disease. Now instead of playing for her support, McCarty is hitting the field in his mom’s memory.
Before every game he’s played since his mom was diagnosed, McCarty began taping his wrists and writing in big letters “4MOM” across the top. This fall, he tattooed his charge permanently on the same spot, signifying his conviction to living for her now.
“Last year we had a game dedicated to cancer awareness, so I went up to Coach (Fernandez) and asked if we could do a game for mom,” McCarty said. “After she passed, Coach came up to me with the idea of having a game to honor her and take donations”
But this wasn’t a night of sorrows and sympathies, but rather a celebration of the life Norman lived. For the Fighting Scots, it was a night to play in honor of the fight she carried against her disease.
“Everyone knows the pink for breast cancer,” McCarty said. “So, it’s nice to take a night and shine some light on the blue.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams took to the field wearing blue warm-up shirts with “Fighting Scots Fighting Cancer” emblazoned across the front with “4MOM” in the center.
Norman was certainly watching as the teams hosted the Piedmont College Lions. The Lady Scots took down the Lions 2-1, setting the stage for the men to follow suit.
The men jumped out in front with two goals from Alex Waddell in the first 5 minutes, and sealed the game in the second half with another from Sean Yoder.
McCarty said the game was very important to both himself and his family.
“My family’s always fought for this cause together, so having 60 kids come together and dedicate something like that was very humbling and it took some of the weight off our shoulders,” McCarty said.
So far, the program has raised around $500 to donate to find a cure. They are still receiving calls and accepting donations.
The Scots left the field Wednesday with two big conference victories, but more importantly, a resounding life lesson: always keep fighting.