Sarah Rose battles Ewing Sarcoma

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Sarah Rose began her battle with Ewing Sarcoma in fall 2020, when she was diagnosed. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Rose.)

“It’s something you never really expect to hear, or really want to hear,” Sarah Rose said. “That you have cancer.”

Rose, a senior on the Marquette women’s volleyball team, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer which grows in the soft tissue and bones, in September.

“Initially, I was just really heartbroken. I didn’t know honestly what to think at the beginning,” Rose said.

Due to her diagnosis, Rose could not return to play for the team for the 2020-21 season.

“A lot of things were racing through my mind about volleyball, school, life, everything. I was just nervous about what was to come and I had a lot of questions, I didn’t know what to expect and I was just scared by the whole situation at the beginning,” Rose said.

To this day, Rose has undergone five months of chemotherapy and finished radiation a little over two weeks ago. Yet, her fight hasn’t been fought alone.

With the help of Rose’s family and teammates, her older brother and sister made an almost 50 minute long video, including everyone important in her life sending words of encouragement and funny stories to take her mind off of radiation treatment before she started it.

The kind words from her teammates and coaches, along with seeing the work that the team puts in, has inspired and continues to encourage Rose to keep fighting.

“It really inspires me to keep pushing and to keep fighting and they always send such kind words of encouragement and they’re always checking in on me … I couldn’t ask for a better support system than my teammates.” Rose said.

Rose said that her teammates continually stay in contact with her, whether it’s a FaceTime call, texting or even having Zoom calls of practice.

The encouragement goes both ways, as Rose’s fight has been a source of inspiration for the team and for head women’s volleyball coach Ryan Theis. Rose gave the pregame speech to her team before the Golden Eagles’ game against DePaul Feb. 12.

“She did way better than I probably ever have, it was awesome,” Theis said. “She got them extremely excited, emotional and charged up to play for her.”

As senior week was inching closer, the plan was to honor Rose, along with the rest of the senior class, Feb. 19, but with COVID-19 complications within the Creighton program, the ceremony and games were postponed.

The planned ceremony was to be the end of “Gold 4 Sarah” weekend. From Feb. 17-21, all Marquette athletic teams would wear gold jerseys and shoelaces to honor and support Rose and to aid her in her fight.

“I’m so honored and really appreciative that not only my team, but all the other teams are honoring me,” Rose said. “I’ve had their support since day one and I am so grateful that they’re doing this for me and just continuing their love and support.”

To show the support is bigger than Marquette, the Creighton Bluejays also took part in wearing gold shoelaces.

Rose said she felt honored by the gesture and felt like they were not seeing her as the “competitor on the other side of the net,” but instead as another human being.

In addition, the Marquette Athletics funding page teamed up with the “Go 4 the Goal” foundation, an organization that raises money and awareness for children with cancer. The original goal was $500, but as of Feb. 22, it is at a staggering $7,315, which is 1,463% of the original goal.

While the volleyball team was not able to play to honor their teammate, most of the other teams at Marquette were able to participate in the event.

The men’s basketball team played Butler on the road in their gold uniforms Feb. 17. After the 73-57 victory, the team did a FaceTime call with Sarah in the locker room to celebrate the victory. Men’s basketball head coach Steve Wojciechowski said that even within sports, it is important to keep perspective on what is going on in the real world.

“One of the things that I think is important for everybody involved  in high-profile sports is to have perspective. You can think what you’re going through is tough and difficult, but when you have perspective, in reality, you’re not fighting the battles a lot of people are fighting,” Wojciechowski said. “We have a lot of gifts individually and collectively as a group and we try to honor those gifts and Sarah (Rose) is a great role model for us to be reminded of that lesson.”

Redshirt junior Greg Elliott also talked about the call and reiterated honoring the gifts given to them.

“Talking to her (Rose) after the game was amazing, because it’s bigger than basketball at this point,” Elliott said. “She can’t play the sport that she loves but we still get to. She’s fighting through us and we’re fighting through her … it felt good to talk with her (and) see her smiling.”

Heading into their matchup with the Denver Pioneers Feb. 20, head men’s lacrosse coach Andrew Stimmel highlighted what playing on Saturday meant to the team, specifically focusing on Rose.

“It’s hard to put into words. I know our guys are excited to be playing on Saturday for a number of reasons, but I think to be able to go out and truly stand behind Sarah and her battle and understand that at the end of the day this is just a game,” Stimmel said. “She’s got a fight ahead of her that is much bigger than anything were doing.”

Even though at first Rose didn’t want to share what was going on with her to people outside her tight community of friends and family, she said she is happy that she did.

“Looking back on it, I’m glad that I shared my story and that we are honoring pediatric cancer and fighting for a bigger cause,” Rose said.

This story was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at jackson.gross@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JacksonGross6.