Saturday, May 18, 2024

CARDS RALLY FOR SENIOR

Senior midfielder Chris Falborn shows off the breast cancer awareness sticker bought by junior defenseman Matt Gannon at the Field House on Saturday, April 6.

 

 

By Collin Bolebruch

Plattsburgh State laxer Chris Falborn spent the final days of his spring break gearing up for the team’s SUNYAC opener against New Paltz March 23. 48 hours before the game, the senior received a life-changing phone call from his mother.

That weekend, after the game had been postponed, Chris stood in front of his teammates at practice to speak:

“My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

 

By Collin Bolebruch

The Cardinals huddle with their helmets adorned with breast cancer awareness stickers during the game against the Oneonta Red Dragons at the Field House on Saturday, April 6.

 

‘UTTER FEAR’

“Immediate emotions were very, very scary. I completely broke down when I first found out,” Chris said. “It was just utter fear in the moment.”

Joyce Falborn hesitated to tell Chris and his sisters. Her mother died following a battle with breast cancer years prior. She didn’t know how to tell her children about her own diagnosis.

Through the rollercoasters of life, Joyce has been someone Chris can talk to and go to with his problems. Joyce and her husband, Chris Sr., separated when Chris was a first-year in high school. “She’s always been someone that I can always turn to and just be an understanding person in my life,” Chris said. “She’s shown that through a lot of hardships that we’ve went through, growing up.”

Chris and Joyce’s tight mother-son relationship and her presence around the team made her a figure the team knew and liked. The next steps were important ones.

Joyce called Chris’ coach, Darry Thornton, to bring him up to speed the next day. Cancer was something Darry had experienced before — his mother died after her own fight in December 2022. He needed to be there for Chris.

“You only get one mother,” Darry said. “Without her, there’s no him.”

Darry extended a hand to Chris. Chris arrived at his locker to find a letter for him, written by Darry. He didn’t know what it was about.

“He thought he was in trouble,” Darry said.

Darry and Chris met privately to discuss Chris’ needs, and how and if he would tell his teammates about his mother’s diagnosis. Darry did not want to have any influence on Chris’ decision.

“All of you showed up to this campus, a lot of you when I wasn’t here yet, and you didn’t know each other, but you are family,” Darry said.

Chris knew he needed to keep everyone on the same page and inform his teammates, face to face.

“I spend so much time with these guys,” Chris said. “They’re like my family away from home. It’s only right for them to know what I’m going through.”

 

By Collin Bolebruch

Head Coach Darry Thornton wears his “Momma Falborn” breast cancer awareness sleeve while coaching April 6.

 

‘WE ALL LOVE CHRIS’

Players regularly speak during team practices. Darry will bring someone forward, tell their story and then let his player say some words — everyone gets a turn.

Darry called Chris forward during the next practice. His teammates cheered his name, but quieted when they’d realized he’d already spoken before.

Keeping himself composed, Chris broke the news to his fellow Cardinals.

“It was great for him to get up there and say everything that was in his heart,” Darry said.

Chris’ teammates surrounded him in an embrace once he had spoken his peace. 

“They were all very supportive. They all gave me a huge group hug after,” Chris said. “Then they all put their hands on me, and we broke (the huddle) down. It meant a lot to just know that they were all there for me.”

Junior Matt Gannon, along with his teammates, was struck by the news. As much of a despondency as Chris’ announcement was, the Cardinals had to be strong to support their friend.

“Why do bad things happen to good people? We all love Chris. We all love Chris’ family,” Matt said.

Matt approached Darry that day with an idea for a gesture.

“You don’t even have to ask,” Darry said.

Matt sat down that night at his computer and bought hundreds of pink ribbon stickers to show support on the field, paying completely out of pocket. He handed the stickers out to teammates to wear on game day.

“That really meant a lot to me, coming out of nowhere with a nice gesture,” Chris said. “He didn’t have to do that at all. But he went out of his way and did it.”

Matt said his friend’s mother had been diagnosed with multiple forms of cancer, and wearing ribbons was something he had done before. It felt right to do the same for someone he considers a brother.

“I saw the opportunity. I said, ‘Well, I’m going to do what I know how to do,’” Matt said.

Darry joined in, putting in his own money to purchase pairs of Adrenaline socks, a premier lacrosse brand, with pink ribbons on them for everyone. 

Darry then ordered matching pink sleeves that read “Momma Falborn” for himself and Chris to wear during games. Chris was taken aback.

“(I was) definitely borderline emotional. I’m not someone to get emotional easily,” Chris said. “It was amazing. It just made me feel like these guys really did care.”

His mother felt much the same. Joyce, who attended one of the first games in pink, hugged Darry.

“She was very appreciative,” Chris said. “She was very happy and was tearing up and crying.”

 

By Collin Bolebruch

Head Coach Darry Thornton paid out of pocket to supply the team with Adrenalin brand breast cancer awareness lacrosse socks. The team plans to wear them throughout the rest of the season.

 

‘BIGGER PICTURE’

Chris got the news at a difficult point in the season. The Cardinals was 1-3 in its last four games, with conference games on the horizon.

When things weren’t working on the field, it was easy for Plattsburgh’s frustration to fester. The Cardinals were looking for direction.

“We get down on ourselves based on lacrosse-related things. It can kill our mood a lot,” Chris said.

When Chris opened up to his teammates, wins and losses became irrelevant. The season became less about goals, and more about brotherhood.

“We’re in a time when a lot of us are looking for something to latch on to, a uniting cause,” Matt said. “(This) is a very easy one. It’s hard to disagree with it. Nobody wants to be the guy who isn’t going to go as hard as possible when we’re all playing for our friend’s mom.”

The race to the ball going out of bounds is faster, the hits are harder and the drive to win faceoffs is stronger. The effort extends off the field, too.

“We’re fighting for each other. We’re in games on the field,” Darry said. “Off the field, we’re still fighting for each other and having each other’s backs.”

Chris walks out onto the field every game knowing his fellow Cardinals have him in mind. He sees the pink and his guys giving full effort, and he’s reminded of what matters.

“It’s always a bigger picture. There’s always something bigger in life than just lacrosse,” Chris said.

The Cardinals has lost the three games since, but to Darry, that’s a moot point. The real progress as a program comes down to its foundation — the team’s culture.

“You really have all these brothers, as opposed to fly-by-nighters,” Darry said. “It’s night and day from what it was three, four, five years ago.”

 Darry described a feeling of pride watching his players come together for Chris.

“It’s a testament. They’ve been through a lot,” Darry said. “They’re going to be good to great productive members of society. I just smile.”

 

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