Lynx rookie is veteran of cancer's battlefield

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 6, 2009 - 11:50 PM

Rashanda McCants says wearing pink tonight in front of her mother, a cancer survivor, is the ultimate tribute.

Lynx player Rashanda McCants and her mom, Brenda.

Tonight will be Breast Health Awareness Night at Target Center. Lynx players will wear all pink -- from shoes to jerseys -- when they play Connecticut at 7 p.m.

Pink is one of Lynx rookie Rashanda McCants' favorite colors. She is glad to wear it, especially since her mother, Brenda, a breast cancer survivor, will be at the game.

"My mom has been through that struggle, and I've seen that struggle right up front," said McCants, a 6-1 rookie forward.

McCants was a senior at Asheville (N.C.) High School when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2005.

Her brother Rashad, two years older and a former Timberwolf, was a junior at North Carolina at the time.

Brenda McCants went through chemotherapy and had three surgeries. The last one was a mastectomy in April 2005, which she delayed a month so she could watch Rashad help the Tar Heels win an NCAA title and Rashanda lead her high school team to its third state title in a row.

Rashanda said she dedicated that basketball season to her mother. She either wore a pink wristband or tied the band around one of her shoes.

"It was always a reminder that she was with me even if she couldn't travel," Rashanda said.

Her mother actually missed only four or five of her daughter's games. She couldn't clap -- too painful and risky after her surgeries -- but she could cheer.

"Basketball was kind of like my therapy to get all my emotions out on the court," Rashanda said. She would scream sometimes when she got fouled, or to encourage teammates.

"It was a release of the pain I was feeling and it was playing for my mom," Rashanda said.

She, Rashad and her sister, Sade, all worried initially their mother would die like their grandmother, Brenda's mother, did from breast cancer in 1987.

Brenda McCants, a retired hair stylist, has been cancer-free for four years. But she still is battling against breast cancer as a member of the Sisters Network, which tries to educate black women about the disease and support them.

On Saturday, Lynx coach Jen Gillom and her players will take part in a fashion show at 2 p.m. at the Mall of America called "Catwalk for a Cure."

Brenda McCants is happy the WNBA and Lynx have joined the fight against breast cancer. "They are paying attention to what is going on, that it is important," she said. "Breast cancer affects their mother, their aunt, their sister. It is in the family. It means a lot just to see them wear pink. That's beautiful."

WHALEN IN TOWN TONIGHT

Former Gophers star Lindsay Whalen makes her only WNBA appearance of the season today at Target Center. Read a Q&A with her at startibune.com.

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