It’s been nearly 10 years since Peabody head coach Jane Heil was diagnosed with breast cancer. In August of 2003 Heil made the decision to go through the full process to rid herself of the cancer, having a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
At first Heil was hesitant to undergo such invasive procedures but said, “If I can full-court press during games, why not go for it.”
Heil never missed a practice or a game and said that 2003-2004 team saved her life. That season the Tanners went 19-1 and fought hard just as their coach did battling the disease. ”They had the outlook like we’re fighters and we’re going to do this,” explained Heil. “I didn’t take about the cancer much, but they lifted me above it. There were days that I would crawl up the stairs after a long day, but you keep moving. This was my life and I was going to live it.
”Everyone in the Peabody school system was incredibly supportive during that time. That 2003 team saved my life, but this team has restored the energy and chemistry in the program.”
Tonight the Tanners will play in the annual breast cancer awareness game, taking on Salem at home. The boosters have been organizing this event for months and though most teams in the area celebrate a pink night, this one is especially meaningful to Peabody and its veteran coach.
”It’s a pretty big deal,” said Heil. “I know we’re not the only team that does this, but it’s a big event for us and we’re very excited about it.”
Back in June, the girls did the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life walk. Heil said it was a great bonding experience for the team and really brought them together.