No One Fights Alone

Women’s soccer rallies behind teammate battling cancer

News Writer Lexi Smiley

Photos Courtesy of Lindsey Poulsen

“As the famous line in Lilo & Stitch goes, “‘Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten.” “once you’re a Vulcan, you’re always a Vulcan…” - Lindsey Poulsen

The past few weeks haven’t been easy for sports lovers. Vin Scully’s swan song at Dodgers Stadium was widely covered, as was the death of golf legend Arnold Palmer. Perhaps the most shocking development, of course, has been the sudden demise of Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández. Tears filled the stands as the Marlins played their first game since the death of their teammate, whose life ended in a boating accident less than 48 hours earlier. Every player on the team wore Fernandez’s jersey as their own. Onlookers could see the pain in all of the players’ eyes, as they sobbed for their lost friend during the singing of the national anthem. At the end of the game, the players kneeled around the mound and left their caps, as a tribute to the life and career of a man they will never forget.

Lindsey Poulsen and teammates
Lindsey Poulsen(right) and teammates

The UH Hilo women’s soccer team decided to stage a tribute of their own, in honor of a former teammate, Lindsey Poulsen. Living in a small town like Hilo, almost everyone considers each other family. As the famous line in Lilo & Stitch goes, “‘Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten.” Poulsen was diagnosed with Stage 2 ovarian cancer on April 20, 2016. Of the four years she attended UH Hilo, three of those years were spent as a student athlete.

Lindsey graduated from UH Hilo in 2014 and moved to O‘ahu to live with her boyfriend, who played for the University’s baseball team. Although Poulsen wasn’t diagnosed until this year, the current women’s soccer team nonetheless recognized her as a teammate and friend. After former goalkeeper Jenna Hufford heard about Poulsen’s diagnosis, she was compelled to speak up: “When I found out she was diagnosed with Stage 2 ovarian cancer, my heart stopped, our lives had flipped, and I knew I had to do anything and everything in my power to help her get through this,” Hufford stated. “In all honesty, though, she doesn’t need much help because she’s the strongest, most positive person I have ever met and that’s why I know she will win this battle.”

Hufford is not unfamiliar with the challenge that Poulsen faces: during her freshman year, Hufford developed a brain tumor on her pituitary gland. “Freshman year, when I had my brain tumor, she [Poulsen] was the girl who helped me through it; she kept me positive and encouraged me to keep going,” Hufford stated. “That’s why it’s my turn now to help her get through this.”

Hufford currently makes a living selling jewelry, and showcases her products on her Instagram page: jennanicole_jewlery. After Poulsen’s diagnosis, she started to sell as much jewelry as she could, in order to book a flight to go see her friend. The team came together, and many of the girls bought jewelry so they could help fly Hufford out to visit Poulsen. Thanks to the support of her teammates, this was made possible.

Poulsen’s cancer has currently advanced to Stage 3; doctors are still trying to figure out how to remove the cancer, which has now metastasized into two forms. As a result, she plans to have surgery in three months at Stanford Cancer Center.

UHH Women's Soccer team sporting blue support bracelets
Photo courtesy of Gene Okamura

In support of Poulsen’s battle, the women’s soccer team have begun to wear teal bracelets, inscribed with the saying “No one fights alone.” They wear these bracelets until the second they step on the field to play, and put them back on right after the game is done. “It means a lot to me that the girls wear these bracelets,” Poulsen stated. “It supports the idea that once you’re a Vulcan, you’re always a Vulcan and that the bonds you make while being a part of the soccer program will support you through all the good and bad times in your life. This begins the second you step on that Hilo field, and it will never end.”

Lindsey Poulsen Kicking

Author’s Note:

Though Poulsen is at the center of this fashion statement, players who wear these bracelets have made it clear that they are in fact wearing them for anyone and everyone. They intend to make a powerful statement - that no matter what, no one should have to go through life’s challenges by him or herself. Hilo may not be Miami, but as demonstrated by the outpouring of grief and sympathy for Fernández, tragic events have a way of bringing people closer together. For Poulsen, the support of the her alma mater’s soccer team is something that she will never forget.