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'Survivor Sisters' firmly in Dofermire's heart

Sisters Rachel Clem, left, Susan Jackson, center, and Pat Lofton gather to watch Strasburg's "Dig Pink" volleyball match against Central on Tuesday night. All three are breast cancer survivors. Jeff Nations/Daily (Buy photo)

Strasburg High School's "Dig Pink" volleyball match against Central on Tuesday night had added meaning for Strasburg senior Katie Dofermire (back row, center). Also on hand, from left, were her aunt Gayle Clem, her grandmother Rachel Clem and her great-aunts Pat Lofton and Susan Jackson. Next to Katie is her mother Tammy and in front is her sister Madison. Jeff Nations/Daily (Buy photo)

By Jeff Nations

STRASBURG -- The gymnasium at Strasburg High School was thoroughly splashed with all things pink on Tuesday night.

The players wore their now customary pink jerseys for the annual "Dig Pink" contest to promote breast cancer awareness, and the crowd mostly followed suit by donning all shades of pink in a show of support. It was an impressive sight, and a meaningful one to many in attendance.

Count Strasburg High School senior volleyball player Katie Dofermire first and foremost among that group. Dofermire has more reasons than most to appreciate all that pink -- her grandmother, Rachel Clem, and great aunts Pat Lofton and Susan Jackson are all breast cancer survivors. All three were at the Rams' match on Tuesday, decked out in matching "Survivor Sister" pink T-shirts.

"I guess for me, it's just more than a game," Dofermire said. "It's an opportunity for me to honor my three heroes -- my grandmother and my two great-aunts. I take it serious, but it's also nice to relax and have fun with it and support the cause."

Dofermire draws plenty of inspiration from her family, and shared their story by adorning the hallways outside the gym with hand-made posters honoring each of the three "Survivor Sisters" and their successful fight against cancer.

Her mother, Tammy Dofermire, said her daughter has drawn strength from witnessing her family's repeated struggles with the deadly disease.

"These three are the world, they're the true center of our family," Tammy Dofermire said. "I'm just so proud that my daughter came up with all that. She really gets the bigger message of everybody wear pink tonight. She gets the gravity of how precious life is and how precious family is."

Pat Lofton, of Strasburg, was the first to get the diagnosis, learning she had breast cancer in June 2008. Two years and two months later, Susan Jackson, of Woodstock, found out that she, too, had breast cancer. Two years and two months after that, Rachel Clem got the same news after going in for an overdue mammogram.

"It was a shock," said Clem, who lives in Star Tannery. "I thought I'd get by without it, you know. I'd had a stroke in January 2010, and then this on top. But we have great family, great love and support."

All three are in remission now, and are praying their brother has similar success in his battle with lung cancer.

On Tuesday night, Clem, Lofton and Jackson helped form an impressive family cheering section for Dofermire. It was Clem's first volleyball match since her breast cancer diagnosis last year.

"I think about it, but I try not to let it upset me," Katie Dofermire said. "You want to be emotional, but you know you can't."

Pat Lofton said there was some cancer in the family history, but nothing could have prepared the three sisters for the news that all had breast cancer.

"We just never gave it a thought," Lofton said. "We just went yearly for our checkups, and thank God we did."

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>. Follow on Twitter @J_NationsNVD


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