Game holds extra meaning for Junior stand-out whose mother recently defeated cancer

Indranshu Das | Staff Writer

Junior Marilyn Popplewell celebrates after the Comets win a point in the annual ‘volley for a cure’ game. Senior Bailey Flowerdew joins the celebration in the back.

The Mason Comets Girls Volleyball team triumphed over the Sycamore Aviators in their annual Volley for Cure game. For most involved, the game was a nice way for the team to come together and spread awareness for cancer.

 But for the Popplewell family, it was more than just a game. 

Junior Marilyn Popplewell’s mother Katie Hornung is a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed last year, and she recently completed a full recovery.

Hornung said not being able to support her daughter throughout the last season was extremely difficult, because she was practically confined in the hospital without a chance to see her play.

“Ironically I was in the hospital last year during the Volley for the Cure night as I was recovering from a double mastectomy,” Hornung said. “It was truly difficult to support her as I couldn’t really leave and would hear how the game went over the phone.” 

Popplewell said she felt worried at first, but was very confident that her mom could get past this hurdle and be back as soon as she could. Popplewell believed in her mother’s personality and spirit, so she felt okay about the situation despite the inevitable nervousness.

“I had full faith that everything would be okay and it was easy for me to stay calm,” Popplewell said. “I was always aware of the scenarios that was going on for her and truly the only day I was really nervous was the day of the surgery.”

Not only was this a big night for Hornung, but for Popplewell’s grandmother as well. Hornung said  her mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a similar hormone-fed cancer, just a year and a half before her. 

Hornung said that the traits that she developed from being raised by such a strong figure kept her emotionally stable through the entire process of her own recovery.

“I think my mother’s persistence and mental strength fed off to me when I started my battle with breast cancer,” Hornung said. “Emotionally I was calmer and knew that everything was going to be okay, and I think Marilyn too had become more mature about the situation compared to the time my mom was diagnosed with cancer.”

Popplewell said this night was a great event and she always looks forward to the festivities before the game involving her mom and grandma. Popplewell said that the atmosphere and environment surrounding the game creates an inclusive night with lots of benefits outside of just the team.

“My favorite part of this game was definitely going to the stands and giving out roses to my mom and my grandparents,”Popplewell said. ”It’s just really cool to see all the support that everyone gives and all the people donating and spending their time tonight.”

There’s no doubt that when a loved one is severely ill it can affect the whole family drastically. For Popplewell, the situation was no different, and she said her teammates were always there for her emotionally while continuing to support her on and off the court. Popplewell said this was her motivation to keep moving and believe that life will return to normal.

“My teammates really helped me a lot to get through the phase of my mom going through rehab and surgery as well as pushing me to become a better player for not only myself but for everyone that is cheering me on,” Popplewell said. “I felt tonight they were there for me and as a result I had that extra motivation to play harder and try my best to contribute for the team.”

Within a year, Hornung returned to the stands and had the opportunity to lead the ceremony during the game. Hornung said it was life changing to come back and be able to support her daughter in whatever way possible. She said it was incredible that everyone comes together on this special occasion, and it is a different feeling from the other games. 

“It was exciting because last time I was on the committee I couldn’t even participate in the activities due to my illness,” Hornung said. ”It was fun to actually get to see the event in person and being in charge with the help of a fantastic support staff I got to really enjoy the night here.It is really amazing when you see the amount of support you get when volleying for a cause, especially one that hits dearly to me and my family. ”

Photo by Mia Sweitzer.