Louise Jones, 77, San Marino, California
When Louise Jones found Senior Games basketball in 2010, she had already recently overcome a bout with breast cancer. She was looking forward, enjoying the active life traveling and competing with her Cougars Gold team through four National Senior Games. Then came the bad news.
“I was disease free for ten years, but it came back in 2019,” she says.
Determined to not let it stop her, the mother of four still played at the Games in Albuquerque while being treated for stage 4 breast cancer. Since then, treatments have continued and she currently needs the assistance of a wheelchair. But she reports she is stable, her scans look better with decreasing numbers, and she’s nowhere near throwing in the towel.
“I’m fighting hard to get back on the court,” she says resolutely. “It will always be with me, but there’s some great medications out there and more coming all the time, so I’m hopeful.”
Playing senior basketball has made up for lost opportunities in the past. “When I was young there was no such thing as Title IX, so there were no teams for girls,” she explains. “I was tomboyish and loved to run and jump, climb trees and tiptoe on people’s fence tops.”
After earning a doctorate degree from UCLA and starting a family, Louise played tennis and then started running in the ‘70s for adult recreation. She later picked up weightlifting in 2005, but basketball did not enter her life until after her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. The surgery, chemo and radiation treatments were effective. “They felt that they got it all, so technically I was in remission,” she recalls. “But breast cancer is a sneaky bugger. It can go dormant and live in your bloodstream for years until something wakes it up.”
Feeling well in 2010, she attended a meeting about Senior Games. “I’m six feet tall, so there was a lot of interest in getting me into basketball. Some of us got together and we eventually had enough for a senior team. We’re really grateful to the Pasadena Senior Center for their support helping us with practice facilities and everything.”
The next year, getting ready for her first National Senior Games in Houston, Louise had a poignant moment when the team’s uniforms came in. “I never had a sport uniform,” she explains. “I tried it on and almost cried, I was so excited to actually see myself in a uniform with a number.”
Louise also found that she had skills to go with her height. Asked if she is a good shooter, she replies, “I’m good enough that the other guys don’t like me getting the ball anywhere near the basket! But I really love to play defense. It makes me happy to stand there with my hands up and have some skinny guard turn around, say ‘Oh’ and pass the ball out!”
The future is uncertain, but as in 2019, Louise says the disease is not going to keep her from going to Fort Lauderdale to be with her team next May. “If I can’t play, I’ll coach. But I’m going to be there with my team.”
Louise wants her experience to help others be diligent with monitoring their health. “One in three women see breast cancer come back, and then it’s stage 4,” she says. “If I could give a message to women now, it would be that yes, early breast cancer can be cured, but you have to be alert and never let your guard down for the rest of your life. And never lose hope.”
Editor’s Note: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.