Decked out in gold, glittery makeup, and new Colorado Buffaloes gear, Bethany Buchanan was ready for a much-needed Saturday afternoon date with her husband.
For two hours at the CU Events Center, Buchanan proudly watched Buffalo’s senior guard Elijah Parquet and his teammates take on CSU Bakersfield.
“I hope Eli feels my energy and my excitement and that I send him all the good vibes, like now and in the future,” she said.
On Saturday, CU honored Buchanan and 16 other cancer patients with a “Bigger Than Basketball” event. Each player bore the names of the honorary members on their backs, with Parquet representing Buchanan.
“I think it’s probably painful for my family to see my last name on his jersey,” said Buchanan, 37. “It’s really cool to see someone who represents me on the pitch doing these physical things that I can’t to do.”
CU partnered with UCHealth for the “Bigger Than Basketball” initiative, designed to raise awareness about the fight against cancer.
Head coach Tad Boyle said he has seen quite a few promotional events come to his desk in his many years in the sport, but this one stood out.
“It was like, ‘Why haven’t we been doing this for years?'” said Boyle, who wore a purple lapel pin for cancer awareness. “It meant so much. I thought it was so well branded – Bigger Than Basketball – because we all know how cancer has touched the lives of so many people over the years. Every family has been touched by it in one way or another.”
Bethany Buchanan with her two children. On Saturday, CU Buchanan honored another 16 other cancer patients with a “Bigger Than Basketball” event. Each player bore the names of the honorary members on their backs, with Elijah Parquet representing Buchanan.
Buchanan and her husband, who live in Morrison, are both CU alums. They have two children, ages 3 and 4. When the youngest was only six months old, Buchanan was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, meaning she will be under treatment for the rest of her life.
“Of course we always have hope that it will go away,” she said. “But instead of calling myself a warrior or a patient or a survivor, I consider myself a bloomer.”
For Buchanan, part of blooming this season means going skiing, taking a family trip and making the most of her time with the kids. And it meant enjoying a day with the Buffs.
“One of my chemo nurses asked me a few months ago if I was interested in it, and I said, ‘Yes!’ I’m a buff, I like sports, my husband likes basketball,” she said. “And I think one of the cool things about it is the collaboration between UCHealth and CU Boulder.”
Buchanan and other patients met the Buffs via Zoom on Wednesday and shared their stories. That gave special meaning to the names on each of their jerseys.
“It meant a lot to me,” said Buffs security guard Keeshawn Barthelemy. “When we met on Zoom it really gave us a sense of how lucky we are to be here, to play ball and be healthy. So it was just an honor to like their name and their stories and stuff to share.”
Guard Nique Clifford added: “It was just a blessing to be able to play and honor them and just show our respect and really just give them hope to keep fighting. I think it was an honor and I hope they enjoyed what we put on the table tonight.”
Buchanan and the other patients present (some watched from a distance) enjoyed a pregame reception with family and friends, took gift bags home and then watched the game.
“It’s just a really fun event,” Buchanan said. “A lot of cancer events are philanthropic, they’re fundraisers, and they can feel a little heavy. This is an opportunity for all these families and cancer patients to come together and do something really fun.
“We kind of act like we’re young, wild and cancer-free – like in our CU days. I think it’s really cool that UCHealth and the Buffs are organizing this event to raise awareness.”
Boyle hopes this is the first of many similar events for CU.
“We were proud to represent them and their families and their struggle today,” he said. “But it’s more than that. There are thousands of people battling cancer across the state, across this country. …We (also) hopefully had a day to represent UCHealth and the health professionals and everything they’ve been through, especially since COVID started, but also those who work with cancer patients and have worked with cancer patients for the past 30, 40, 50 years.
“It is an honor to have the opportunity to fight on the basketball floor and bring their fight to the attention of the public and our fans. It’s an honor for our players.”