Breast Cancer Battle Leads Coach to Schedule ‘Think Pink’ Game

stockton women's basketball coach devin jefferson

Stockton women's basketball coach Devin Jefferson, center, draws up a play for her team during a recent game. Jefferson was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in June 2022.

Galloway, N.J. — The Stockton University women’s basketball team will host its “Think Pink” game on Saturday, Feb. 3 to celebrate breast cancer survivors and continue to bring awareness and raise money for breast cancer research. The Ospreys will host Montclair State University at 3 p.m. in the Sports Center.

The cause is very personal for Stockton head coach Devin Jefferson, whose team is having its most successful season in her six years at the helm. Jefferson shared her own experience with breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Early detection was pivotal in her learning of her diagnosis.

devin jefferson

I was fortunate to get great care and find a new perspective on life and what’s really important."
Stockton women's basketball coach Devin Jefferson

“I went to my routine mammogram appointment in March 2022. I was not initially concerned. I don’t think I really gave it much thought. It was just one of those annual health appointments you have to take care of. Breast cancer is not in my family history,” Jefferson said.

The guidelines for screening vary, and in some cases health insurance recommends that screening begin at age 50.

“In September 2019, I got a call that my college teammate Simona “Monie” Burgess passed away after battling breast cancer for a couple of years. She was only 38 years old when she passed. She was so young and so full of life,” said Jefferson. 

Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and Black women die from the disease at a much higher rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A common misconception is that most people think of it as an inherited disease, but that is only in about 5% to 10% of cases. Most people who are diagnosed have no known family history, according to the American Cancer Society.

“In June 2022, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. Emotionally, I didn’t understand all of what was involved. My doctor immediately talked about surgery and post-treatment options with radiation and possible chemotherapy, and I was numb to it all,” Jefferson said.

There are so many positive stories of former athletes who have undergone similar experiences, such as Olympians Chaunte’ Lowe and Shannon Miller, anchor Robin Roberts and other peer college coaches. “It’s comforting to see through progress and how they don’t allow their prior diagnosis to overshadow their life.

“I was fortunate to get great care and find a new perspective on life and what’s really important. Going through surgery and post-treatment radiation during the basketball season was not ideal. You’re constantly battling with your health while also figuring out how to be your best self in front of a group of impressionable young people. As difficult as it was, you remain steadfast, you just keep going.

“I’m more comfortable sharing my story today than I was a year ago,” Jefferson stated. “I want to share in raising awareness. One in eight women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. It’s important to know your risk, get screened and make healthy lifestyle choices.”

-- Story by Chris Rollman, photo by Riley Lorenz