In a meeting with the football team on Aug. 9, head coach Jay Hill stressed to the team how important it is to support your teammates through rough times and to have each other’s back on and off the field as they head into their 2016–17 season.
Moments later, his wife, Sara Hill, walked into his office after a doctor’s appointment and told him she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system, after months of testing.
“I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that it would be cancer,” Hill said in that media conference.
Sara was injured in early February and began the process of x-rays, MRIs and other miscellaneous tests, ruling out torn muscles, infections and broken bones.
“I was just thinking it was an infection. … I have had one before,” Sara said. “Bottom line, I am thrilled to know what it is and to get rid of the pain. … Whatever it is, let’s just get rid of it.”
While making it clear that Sara is his main priority, Hill is still not sure how he plans to balance all of the tasks at hand.
“I want to be to her chemo treatments and support her as much as I can. But at the same time, we’ve got 95 players looking at us, expecting to win and be good this year,” Hill said. “We do have to juggle it; we do have to balance it. I’ve got to rely on the assistant coaches. I have to rely on Sara to be strong. We are in the heart of it right now, and we are doing the best we can.”
As the date was already set for a pre-season barbecue with players, coaches, wives and family members, Sara decided that shaving her head alongside a few Weber State football players would make it “less depressing.”
“Luckily, a few players came — not just one or two — and shaved their heads with me,” Sara said.
Around 20 players and coaches offered to shave their heads in support of Sara, including a few players who had been growing their long locks of hair for years.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way (the team members) responded,” Hill said. “For them to do what they did was a huge outpouring of love and support for us.”
Hill believes remaining positive in all aspects of life will help them win this battle.
“It’s a hard situation,” Hill said. “We have to be optimistic, otherwise you’re going to have everything weighing on you, and that’s not the way to overcome something like this.”
Sara will begin chemotherapy and other treatments beginning on Sept. 2, so she can attend the season opening football game against Utah State University in Logan on Sept. 1.