November 22, 2015

Twenty-nine days

Twenty-nine days was all it took for my life to change irrevocably.

In mid-September, my maternal aunt, Professor Michelle Carr, went to the emergency room in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York with a headache.

Twenty-nine days later, on October 16, 2015 my family stood beside her and said our final goodbyes.

My aunt, affectionately known as “Aunt Michey” or my special name for her, “Aunty Wonty” passed away from a rare and highly aggressive form of brain cancer. She lived a very healthy lifestyle, but after having a terrible headache on September 17th while working on a patient, she went to the emergency room and doctors discovered there was bleeding in her skull. After a series of further testing and imaging, we learned that she had a mass in her brain.

On October 1st she had her first surgery, which was supposed to be a relatively simple procedure intended to remove a small piece of the tumor to biopsy and determine the next course of action. But, this tumor did not react as doctors predicted, and that would be a recurring theme throughout this entire ordeal.

Instead of my aunt recovering with her sister (my mother) Tracy, and her children, Courtney and Jerel, at her bedside, her life was thrown into a whirlwind. There were internal seizures and the tumor reacted violently and started to swell, which affected her speech, memory, and overall brain function. My family rallied around her and we supported her with love, affection, and respect. Her doctors worked tirelessly to find a course of action that could help her, and they decided to perform a second surgery to remove more of the tumor in the hopes that it would make room and alleviate the effects of the brain swelling.

After this surgery, things started to look up a bit. I was in constant contact with my mom, who was at Aunty’s bedside around the clock, and we were all sending positive thoughts and prayers into the atmosphere. We had plans to support Aunty through her recovery, which would be extensive, but we believed it would be manageable. We were excited for the opportunity to care for her and love on her, the same way that she had always loved on us.

But, the tumor would again react unpredictably, and Aunty started to slip away from us. The swelling wouldn’t stop, and she started having more seizures. Doctors decided to sedate her into a medically-induced coma in the hopes that her brain would have a chance to rest and recover.

How I wish that had worked.

From this point on, things were obviously difficult. Aunty lost brain function and was put on life support. I flew to New York City immediately and experienced the toughest two weeks of my life.

But, the point of this blog post isn’t to tell you all about the bad times. It is, in part, to raise awareness about brain cancer, but even more so, it’s to tell you about my aunt. She was such an amazing person that I can’t fully explain who she was within the bounds of this post, but I can try to explain who she was to me.

When I tell people that my aunt passed away, I feel as if the word “aunt” isn’t strong enough to convey the bond of our relationship and it does her a disservice. Aunty Wonty was so much more than what that word describes.

Twenty years ago, just around the time I was born, my mother dealt with an unimaginable amount of tragedy. She lost both of her parents, her brother, and a sister, all within a five-month period. Her big sister Michelle was all she had left. Aunty became her new mother. Her sister. Her best friend and her confidante. And she did it all with a grace you cannot imagine. In the same vein, Aunty was not just my aunt, but my second mother, and also the grandmother I would never have.

When I was between three and eight years old, my military parents were stationed in New Jersey, just a short drive down the turnpike from Aunty’s New York apartment. Nearly every weekend Aunty and my cousins visited us, and, as anyone in my family will gladly tell you, on Sunday when it was time for her to return home, I cried from the moment I awoke until hours later when her car pulled out of the driveway.

“Aunty don’t goooo!!!” I’d bawl, and she’d reply, “Khaliyah Mia! I’ll be back next weekend, baby!” and although I knew this was true, my five-year-old self could not bear the thought of a week without her! Looking back on this now, I think that crying when it was time for Aunty to leave was my way of showing my intense love for her when I was too young to express that emotion verbally. As I got older, Aunty and I texted and talked on the phone constantly, and our bond remained very strong.

Another story I’d like to share about Aunty is the story of “Bear”.

You may know Bear from my freshman year video during our Final Four run. Bear travels with the team and I on every trip and sleeps in my bed every night without fail. Bear was a gift from my Aunty. She sent him to me when my military dad was getting ready to deploy to Iraq when I was eight years old. I still remember my mom calling me into the room and giving me a huge white box with my name on it. Aunty sent Bear to be a source of comfort during a difficult time, and no one could have predicted how much comfort he brought me when my father went to war, and how much comfort he brings me today, now that Aunty has passed.

Because of my upbringing, I’m the kind of person who strives to do my best in everything I approach. Last season when I was experiencing some difficulties with basketball I snuggled up with Bear and confided in Aunty. With her typical sweetness she encouraged me to protect my passion for the game. She told me to play without reservation, and to be confident in my own judgment on the court, and to utilize all the basketball skills that I had worked so hard to develop. She was so happy when things turned positive for our team and we reached the Sweet Sixteen!

There are so many stories like this that I could share about my Aunty Wonty; and these are the stories and memories that get me through the days without her. I try to think of our last trip together when we went to Chicago this summer for my sister’s wedding and we had an amazing time. We slept in the same hotel room, stuffed our stomachs with the world’s fluffiest blueberry pancakes each morning, and marveled at the beauty of the Windy City. I wish that words could convey just how much I cherish these memories, and how much they keep me going during such a difficult time.

And a difficult time it has been. I won’t even do the disservice of trying to put into words the pain that I feel on a daily basis. But Aunty wouldn’t want me to be hurt. I can vividly remember her saying on multiple occasions, “Well, you know I don’t like anything making my Khaliyah-Mia sad!”

Instead of being sad, Aunty would want me to remember and cherish all of our great times together, and I hope to honor her with not only how I play on the court, but with how I continue to carry myself through this lifetime.

So, when you see me make the ASL sign for “family” whenever I hit a three point shot on the court this season, know that it is in remembrance of my Aunty. It’s my way of honoring her, and of playing basketball the way she loved to see me play: with confidence, passion, and determination.

Aunty’s funeral service was standing room only. She was only fifty-six years old and her colleagues, students, patients, and fellow dental professionals came out in droves. I heard from so many different people about how she affected their lives so positively, and they were so sad to say goodbye to her.

But I’ve decided that I didn’t say goodbye. I carry her with me. And I always will. She is with me in each and every moment of my life, and that gives me strength. I’m still grieving, and, as many people have told me, I’ll never stop. But I am doing my best to honor her memory and to live, and play basketball, in a way that would make her smile. As my mom says, “Grief is the price of love.”

Yes, there is a lot of grief, but only because there was a lot of love.

Learn more at the American Brain Tumor Association -

November 17, 2015

Bird is ready to lead

Playing with USA basketball this summer was an absolute amazing experience. South Korea had an amazing atmosphere with amazing people. Much of the experience was like the Olympics, we had an opening and closing ceremonies and even a World University games village. Despite my worries, the food was amazing and if you ever want to try some good Korean food, I recommend authentic Korean barbeque. Besides the great food, just being able to play with some of the nation’s top players was an unforgettable experience. Winning the gold was great, but being able to win it with such an amazing team and coaching staff made it even better.

One of the biggest things I learned from this experience was leadership. Being a captain of such an elite team, taught me communication was a key part of our success. Twelve girls means twelve different personalities. Learning to have different conversations with these players not only helped me understand that each person will bring a different type of energy to the group, but also everyone’s effort and energy is necessary in order to achieve the common goal. I also learned how to be the middleman by communicating with both the coaches and team to make sure that there was a common ground on certain tasks. This year I look forward to bringing my leadership qualities to the team. I want to be someone who my teammates feel they can lean on, on and off the court. Leaders have a very important job, but I think this year I am ready to step up to the plate and knock it out of the park!

This year’s team is going to be GREAT. We have a lot of talent that will help us tag-team a lot, which allow us to keep a fast pace the entire game. I have so much confidence in this team, I look forward to winning many games. When everyone thinks Stanford basketball, one thing that comes to mind is tradition. There are so many one can think of, but when I think of this team I think sisterhood and success.

Erica (Bird) McCall

March 12, 2015

Forever Grateful

As my final year here at Stanford is coming to a close, I’ve gone through so many emotions in thinking about the past, present, and future. I am grateful for the past and for my time here as a student, athlete, teammate, sister, and friend. I appreciate the present, for there are not many more moments left here with the people I’ve spent the past four years of my life with. I am hopeful, nervous, and excited for the future, presenting itself as a new challenge and as something different. There is no doubt that I will miss my teammates. From my freshman to senior year, many things may have changed in the background, but the relationships and the friendships that develop never falter. I will carry them with me no matter where I go, and I know the same goes for the other seniors in my class.

The best way to express the way I feel is just to say thank you. Thank you to my friends and family back home for supporting me, encouraging me, and guiding me towards a path where success was attainable. Thank you to my mother for teaching me that grades were important, that I could do anything I put my mind to, and that work ethic and hard work are some of the most invaluable traits to have. Thank you to my father for helping me to fall in love with the game of basketball, for supporting my dreams, and enabling me to chase them. Thank you to my sister for making me want to be a person that you would want to look up to and be proud of. And thank you to my grandmother for sending me some of the best care packages a college student could ask for. Some of my happiest moments have derived from time spent with family when they come and support me during home games, the PAC-12 Tournament, and the NCAA Tournament. And if anyone knows me, the first place I go after we win a game is to the stands to see my family.

I also would like to thank all of my teammates, past and present. I remember my freshman experience and how the senior class (Nneka, Lindy, Grace, Sarah Boothe) took care of me, how nervous I was to start in my first game, and my first experience in the Final Four. I recall growing through ups and downs during my sophomore and junior years, and now almost finishing my final year here. Some days may have gone by slowly, but the years flew by. I hope that I was a good example to my teammates now and know that they will continue to do great things moving forward.

I’d like to thank the coaching staff and you guys reading this blog-the fans. I wouldn't have been as successful and would not have had the experience that I had today if it had not been for all the community support. Stanford fans are the greatest fans, and the fact that they care about us not only on the court but also as people and as individuals means the most.

And finally, I’d like to thank the game of basketball. I have loved you and I have played you since I was 5 years old. I’ve eaten, slept, watched, felt, and breathed you. You have been a partner to me in the biggest of ways. You’ve showed me the heartbreak of defeat and joy of coming out victorious. You’ve lifted my esteem and humbled me at the same time. And with you, I have made friendships that will last a lifetime, received an elite level of education, and found one of my biggest passions and a way to express myself. I hope to play you for as long as I can, and when I can’t anymore, I will always be around you, watching and listening. I will never take you for granted. I will forever be grateful.

— Amber

February 27, 2015

Drowsy Driving

Hi Fans!

I am sure that many of you think that the schoolwork that we do at Stanford is very complex and difficult given Stanford’s reputation as an academic institute. Well, you would not be wrong. Much of the schoolwork and projects that my teammates and I have to work on are time consuming and difficult.

However, every once in awhile we get the chance to do a project that is a little more on the fun side. Well, recently for our Sleep and Dreams class, Bonnie and I had the chance to film a short video that is meant to teach people about the prevalent issue of Drowsy Driving.

As you know, Bonnie and I can get a little goofy when placed together in front of a camera so we definitely had fun with this one. Even still, we think it is an issue worth sharing with everyone in the hopes that people are more aware about how dangerous it is to drive while drowsy.

So, if you fans are ever so inclined to learn a little bit about Drowsy Driving or just want to see Bonnie and I make fools of ourselves, feel free to check out the video.

Go Card!!
— Erica

February 25, 2015

New friends

Coming to Stanford was one of the scariest things I’d ever done. Not because I was going to college or leaving home for the first time—every college student has to go through that process—but because I was leaving my twin sister, Jordan, for the first time in my life. I was so nervous to not have my best friend by my side the first day I arrived to campus with my Dad. How was I going to make friends without her?

That's when I met my teammates.

Upon arriving to campus I had been texting with the other freshmen, Kaylee and Taylor. We all were worried about what to pack, what classes to take, what we should wear on the first day and so many other things that seem trivial now.

When I finally met them on campus though it was like I already had 2 friends. Then, once we started summer workouts I began to make friends with the whole team- 14 automatic friends.

As time passed though, I began to see my teammates as not only friends but sisters too. Every day we are together, sharing our ups and downs. When someone succeeds we all get happy for them, and when someone is down everyone is there to support them.

When I found out I had a stress fracture in my foot in October I was devastated, but my teammates were there to help me. Many of them even had gone through a similar experience and were there to offer advice. I can’t even imagine what I would have done without them!

So although I know no one could replace Jordan, my teammates have come pretty close and have made the adjustment to college easier then I could have imagined.

Brittany Anne MPchee

February 12, 2015

Trip to Arizona

This past weekend we made a trip to sunny Arizona to play Arizona State University and University of Arizona. Despite the fact it is in the middle of the winter, the temperature down here was in the 80’s! On the other hand, my home in New Jersey is experiencing temperatures below freezing and the area is under a foot of snow.

One of my favorite parts about traveling with the team is that I get the opportunity to visit places I have never been before. Being from the East coast, I rarely traveled to the other side of the country. This would mark my second time being in the American southwest, New Mexico being the first.

During this trip, I was very happy to see some of my family whom I have not been able to see since they moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Erica Payne and Bird also had support at the games from their families and friends. I am very thankful to have family that supports me in my endeavors wherever they take me in the United States.

Now that it is February, we are headed into the end of our regular Pac12 season and are approaching the tournament. It is amazing to think that I am more than half way done with my first season as a member of this team.

I never thought that I could love playing with a group of girls more than I do now. We have been working very hard everyday to get better, and off the court we have become best friends. Playing with my teammates has been a lot of fun this year and I am excited for what waits in the future. Lets Go Card!

— Taylor Rooks

February 7, 2015

Petition for team puppy!

FBC, we need your help! Even though this is a completely unfeasible request, SWBB feels as though we need a puppy. I mean who doesn't love a cute, snuggly puppy?! We all know how much Tara loves dogs, so I think we could even get her on board.

I have a black cockapoo at home named Blitz. He is the most hilarious character, and he adds pure bliss to my life. Erica Payne has a bulldog (Daisy) and a beagle (Vinny). KJ has a dog named Gunnar. Bon and Karlie have a golden retriever, Sami. Britt's dog just had puppies about a month ago. Needless to say, we love dogs. However, we haven't decided what kind we want as our team dog.

What do you think FBC? Personally, I want a miniature Bernidoodle. A few have requested a bulldog. I have heard labradoodle, pom-sky (pomeranian & husky), chocolate lab; you name it. But we are definitely open to suggestions, which is why we need your help!

Please post your suggestions, and I will keep working on the logistics! ;)

— Taylor Greenfield

February 4, 2015

Coffee club is still alive!

For those of you who don’t know, and a recap for those of you who do, coffee club was created by Mikaela Ruef and Sara James.

Every morning on away trips about forty-five minutes to an hour before breakfast, a group of us go on a grand adventure to various coffee shops along the west coast. By grand adventures I mean we walk for about fifteen minutes, tops.

The members of the coffee club are yours truly (Tess Picknell), Bird (Erica McCall), Smiley (John, the media guy), and Hana Potter (one of the managers).

The coffee club is a way to go outside and see a little bit of the city where we are staying, helping break up the routine of hotel, bus, gym, bus, hotel, food, sleep, wake up and do it again. The goal is to find unique coffee shops, the mom and pop shops that have original coffee that is to die for. Chain coffee shops are only used when those mom and pop shops cannot be found.

So far this year, the coffee selection has been great. When we went to Hawaii we found a place that had a honey macadamia nut latte. In Chattanooga there was a place that had a lavender honey latte. In Tennessee the closest coffee shop was a combination between a coffee shop and a chocolate shop, so I bought way too many chocolate covered cherries (they were amazing!!).

But my favorite is the Washington trip, which is by far the best because the coffee shop in Spokane that we went to had a scrabble board, so we had great coffee while playing scrabble together. Then there is Seattle, which is probably the greatest coffee club trip because the hotel is within walking distance of Pike’s Place Market. We got to walk through it in the morning, and watch all the vendors putting up their wares. Pikes Place Market is also home to the original Starbucks (it’s the original so we make an exception) and this little stall that sells literally some of the best donut holes in existence, and I don’t say that lightly.

So coffee club is going strong, and I hope that I will be able to convince a couple more of the girls to join, They like their sleep in the morning, but I think I can do it.

— Tess

January 30, 2015

L.A. Trip

We had a really special trip down to Los Angeles this past weekend.

Not only did we win both games against UCLA and USC but a lot of our team got to see their families! The weather was beautiful, almost 75 degrees and sunny, in the end of January!

Bird’s family came to the games from Bakersfield, the Samuelsons from Huntington Beach, the Robersons from Fullerton, and the Paynes traveled down with us from the Bay Area.

The best part, besides seeing all the adoring families, was that the adoring families came bearing goods! We got goodie bags full of our favorite treats from Bird’s sweet family and while we were starving at the airport waiting to go back to Stanford, Bri’s aunt surprised us all with burgers and fries for everyone!

We are so lucky to have such amazing families and support from home, love seeing everyone on the road!

— Kailee Johnson

January 14, 2015

I Love my Team

As it is now January, we are right in the middle of our season and starting our journey through the Pac-12 Conference. Being months into the season, my teammates and I spend a lot of time together. I am currently writing this on our bus ride to play at Washington State, and it makes me think how lucky I am to be surrounded by such an amazing group of girls. Every individual on this team is both an incredible player and person. I never thought that I could have 14 best friends that are all so different from each other. The personalities on this team span an extremely wide range and it is interesting to see how well we all get along, despite our differences. And despite the amount of time we spend together!

This preseason has been a great example of how close our team is. So far, this season has been a rollercoaster ride of both success and losses. However, no matter the outcome of a game, our team stays the same: united and determined to improve.

Every player on this team brings different aspects both to the game and to life with their personalities and talents. Here is a poem of different things that everyone does or likes to do:

E, Brit, Bon, Tess reading books.
Jigsaw puzzle, that’s for Rooks.
A game is on? There’s Bam, Bri, Li.
Good song is on? Dancing is Jas and Birdie.
Your lips are chapped? Just ask Kai.
She needs her chapstick, or she’ll die.
Taylor’s doing abs and glutes.
While Lex is storing her favorite fruits.
Kayl likes to play “what are the odds”
And I’m writing a poem for this blog.
There’s 15 of us on this team.
Change a single person, I wouldn’t dream.

— Karlie