When Michele Meska created Monarch softball's annual Pink Game in 2010, the effort to promote breast cancer awareness went beyond mere pink uniforms.
Meksa, you see, endured life with breast cancer to the fullest extent, an experience that continued to accelerate as the Pink Game morphed into a larger entity. After travailing through multiple bouts with the disease, she possessed firsthand knowledge of what patients dealt with in each stage and acute awareness of the items that provided comfort.
Predisposed to breast cancer as a BRCA1 carrier, Meska fought off the disease three times until the fourth occurrence claimed her life on Nov. 30. But the mother of two former Monarch players, Kaitlyn and Kristina Meska, has left a long-lasting legacy with the Pink Game she helped launch in 2010.
"I didn't realize how many people she touched," said Shirley Brice, a friend through Monarch softball who helped Meska operate the Pink Game. "I was thinking about why this woman had become such a force, and it was because she was so transparent about the disease. She was just so open about it, and I think that's what resonated with people."
A service celebrating Meska's life will be held Friday at Rock Creek Church, 225 Majestic View Drive in Louisville, from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is open to the public.
In addition to her efforts with the Pink Game, Meska was an ambassador for breast cancer awareness and inundated herself with rich knowledge of the subject in order to help those struggling through the disease. The Pink Game grew in size each season as players and community members donated cash and comfort items, the latter of which players transformed into gift bags that they dropped off to the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center.
Meska's inspiration for the gift bags was culled from a personal experience, when she received one while in RMCC in February 2012 while undergoing treatment for her second occurrence. The number of bags distributed increased from 30 in 2012 to 107 this season. Centaurus coach Mike Lujan, a cancer survivor himself, brought his entire team to the Pink Game this fall.
According to Brice, Meska remained active in making sure the gift bags were delivered, even in her final days. Meska, who worked at Coal Creek Bowling Center, was passionate not only about making girls aware of the disease at a young age, but in encouraging them to help fight the cause. The Pink game was a perfect platform.
"We wanted the girls to be involved in the community somehow, and we thought maybe this can be the way to raise awareness," Meska told BoCoPreps prior to the 2013 game. "It was fairly simple at first to put on, and it was very minimal. Over the last few years, last year especially, it's really grown."
That trend will only continue, as a cause that already had local ties now hits even closer to home. Her daughters, husband Chris and fiercely loyal friend Shawn Ide can attest to that. They can also take solace in the notion that, despite unfairly having to navigate through multiple occurrences of the disease beginning with the initial detection June 2005, she saw it as a way to be proactive.
"She didn't wallow in the disease and say 'poor me,'" Brice said. "She faced it head on and that Pink Game meant the world to her."
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