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Oklahoma State Fight Song Helps Cancer Survivor Celebrate Her Strength

03/28/2019

Posted in

This story has everything. It’s a story of triumph, rediscovered friendship, a giddy celebration of life and a passion for cheerleading for the OSU Cowboys. And it has gone viral, with approximately 200,000 people viewing the video on Facebook and Twitter in just a few days. Between both social media platforms, so far more than 68,000 folks have engaged with the video by liking, commenting and sharing it.

In case you haven’t seen it, it’s full of pure joy. Anna-Lisa Bright and Joe Holcomb, who were cheerleaders together at Oklahoma State University in the mid-1980s, hark back to their shared past and perform one last cheer for old time’s sake.

But really, it’s the backstory that makes the video so special. You see, Anna-Lisa has just finished her sixth and final round of chemo, and her friend and former cheerleading teammate Joe just happens to be the Wellness Director at the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute where Anna-Lisa is receiving her cancer treatment.

In the video, recorded just days ago, Anna-Lisa and Joe are cheering their hearts out, just like they did together in their college days, but they’re also cheering a bright future where Anna-Lisa is healthy and cancer free.

"We just did it and it cracked us up. It was so goofy. I almost fell over at one point. We thought our friends might think it was funny. Never did I think it would reach so many people," says Anna-Lisa.

"I figured a few people might enjoy seeing us together again, but I never imagined the story would resonate with so many people," Joe says.

But of course, it makes sense in hindsight. Anna-Lisa’s cancer journey is inspiring. "It’s all about hope and Anna-Lisa’s undiminished fighting spirit. People can see that she is making the most of a tough situation and is fighting through it with laughter and strength," he says.

Perhaps just as importantly, the video also illustrates the healing power of family and friends. 

Big hair days

Anna-Lisa Bright met Joe Holcomb in 1984. They were both freshmen at Oklahoma State, and they were two of the newest members of the cheer squad at OSU. Together, they faced the university’s athletic foes with fierce determination and fantastic cheer routines. As many buddies do, the teammates lost touch after graduation.

Cheering

Fast forward 30 years or so. Anna-Lisa and her husband Pat walked into her first chemo treatment at INTEGRIS Cancer Institute. Who did she practically bump into? Joe. Neither friend thinks that was an accident.

"Anna-Lisa and Pat were coming off the elevator just as I was walking into the INTEGRIS Wellness Center. I was so happy to see them. Everything was in alignment for us to meet again that day. I am so glad she chose INTEGRIS for her cancer treatment. To think that she and I met way back in 1984 is just amazing," says Joe.

"I truly believe it was a gift from God," says Anna-Lisa. “"He looked at my husband and me and said I am here for you. And he was."

cheerleaders

Anna-Lisa was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in September 2018, on the day before she turned 52. She had never really worried about breast cancer. Colon cancer had been more of a focus; her father died of the disease at 58.

But because Anna-Lisa is a fastidious list-maker and box-checker, she scheduled her routine mammogram since it came up on her "To Do" list.

"Thank God I had that mammogram. It was just another chore I wanted to finish. I’d had five colonoscopies because of my dad, and always worried about colon cancer, but with the mammogram I was literally just checking it off. When they called to tell me I had cancer, I just said 'what?' and they said it again and I was like 'what??'"

After the shock subsided she began her treatment at the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute. Her cancer required six rounds of chemo. As Anna-Lisa puts it, "I could not have done any of this without my family. They have been my number one support."

She and husband Pat, the love of her life, met in the seventh grade. Their four kids are Hunter, Abbey, Brandon and Rae-Anna. Anna-Lisa says her kids and Pat are "my total rock during this time," as she tears up talking about it.

"I’m so glad I got treated at INTEGRIS. It’s been amazing. Of course I haven't liked having cancer, but my journey over this difficult time has been as good as it can be. I've really felt loved and supported," says Anna-Lisa. "I am a little embarrassed and humbled that our silly video has gone viral, but I hope people who might be going through their own cancer journey will perhaps smile and laugh and know that they can fight hard to beat it."


 

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