QUICKSBURG – Tears were flowing at Dick Krol Field at General Stadium on Tuesday evening.
One by one, members of the Stonewall Jackson’s girls soccer team went up to teammates Virginia and Julia Biller on the sidelines of the field and delivered a flower. The Biller sisters, along with their brother Braxton, then turned to their mother Jennifer and handed her the flowers. It was part of an emotional ceremony in between the boys and girls soccer game in honor of Jennifer Biller, 48, who has been battling colorectal cancer since September 2017.
The Generals wore purple uniforms and there were purple streamers and purple balloons throughout the stands. They chose the color purple because it is the universal color for cancer.
Jennifer Biller said it was a special and memorable night for her.
“I’ve been watching these girls both (junior varsity) and varsity play since they were 4 and 5,” she said. I love all the girls – JV and varsity. So it meant the world to me for them to do this because they’re really special to me.”
Jennifer Biller, who works as a gifted resource specialist at Signal Knob Middle School and Strasburg High School, said when she was first diagnosed with colorectal cancer, her doctor told her there would be a year of treatment. She said she went through radiation, then surgery and then chemotherapy. Her last chemo treatment was Aug 30. In January, she had a CAT scan that showed there was a recurrence in her abdomen.
She said she has been undergoing a different type of chemo this time and has visited Georgetown University Hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital for second opinions. Jennifer Biller said that at the end of the summer they will see how her treatments are going to see if she needs to have surgery again.
She said her three children – Virginia, Julia and Braxton – and her husband Jerry have all been supportive. Julia, a sophomore at Stonewall Jackson, wants to go into medicine so she learned how to do some things for her mom from the home health nurse.
“The family has just been a huge support,” Jennifer Biller said. “They’ve stayed busy with all their activities, which I think helps a lot because there’s constantly something going on. You’re not just kind of sitting around. It’s also nice that they’re all three teenagers because they can help but also they can get rides (to) places and that kind of stuff, and I don’t have to worry about all of that.”
Stonewall Jackson coach Ginny Dellinger said that when the team first found out that Jennifer Biller’s cancer had returned she could tell her players were upset and felt helpless because there was only so much they could do. Stonewall Jackson senior Casey Gibson, who is Virginia’s best friend, came to Dellinger and wanted to know if there something the team could do to help the family.
So Dellinger and Casey Gibson’s mom Mary talked it over and decided to do the Cancer Awareness Night and the special ceremony held on Tuesday night.
The team sold 120 T-shirts and together with some money donated by Valley Sports Connection, the sporting goods store in New Market that made the T-shirts, made $544. The money was donated to the American Cancer Society in the names of Jennifer Biller and Martin Hernandez, a freshman at Stonewall Jackson who has brain cancer. Martin was not able to take part in Tuesday’s ceremony.
On the back of the T-shirts, which many in attendance Tuesday had on, says: “You have been assigned this mountain to show others that it can be moved.”
Jennifer Biller said Dellinger read her the quote the first time she was diagnosed with cancer and she really loved it.
“There’s a verse in the Bible that I love that talks about if you believe that you can move this mountain and tell it to move, it will move,” Jennifer Biller said. “So it’s very special to me for that.”
Dellinger said that she wanted to make sure all of the players were involved in the ceremony on Tuesday, which is why she came up with the idea to have each of them hand out a flower to Virginia and Julia Biller.
“I wanted our players to feel supported, Virginia and Julia,” Dellinger said. “So I thought that for each teammate to give them something and then they could turn and give those to their mom, and it worked out really well. I don’t think the girls expected to be so touched. They came in all smiles and happy and there were a few tears being shed as it went on. So I think it was a good touch. It worked out really well.”
Virginia said it meant a lot to her to have her teammates do this for her and her family.
“After the ceremony tonight, all of them came up and gave me hugs and my sister as well,” she said. “Some of them were even tearing up because we are such a close family unit. So that’s nice to have them for sure.”
During the game, there were a limited number of bells that were sold to fans in the stands. After the Biller family received their flowers, the public address announcer asked for anyone who had battled cancer to stand and remained standing, then for anyone who had ever lost a loved one to stand, then for anyone who has someone they care about who is battling cancer to stand, and finally for anyone who wants to see cancer defeated to stand. Everyone was standing by then, and they were asked to ring their bells, stomp their feet and make noise to show their support.
“The idea was to get the whole crowd to make noise in support – and make them feel it,” Dellinger said. “What a better way to do that than with loud noise, because you feel it – it’s a physical thing.”
Jennifer Biller said that she hasn’t missed a soccer game last season or this season. All three of her children play soccer. Both Virginia, a senior, and Julia play on the girls varsity squad. Braxton, an eighth-grader, plays on the junior varsity boys squad.
“Watching the kids play soccer is something I look forward to,” Jennifer Biller said. “When I first got diagnosed, I had my first chemo I think a week before their first game, and I had had surgery. I was still uncomfortable sitting, but I came and sat in a camp chair to be there at the game. I won’t miss a game.”
On Tuesday, the night was made even more special as both Virginia and Julia scored a goal as part of Stonewall Jackson’s 8-0 win over Page County.
Virginia scored the first goal of the game and said it was definitely a good feeling.
“It went right in and I was like, ‘ahh I’m so happy,’” Virginia said. “...It did mean a lot to me to get the (goal) and for mom. First goal – it was for her.”
Julia’s goal came with two minutes left in the opening half and it was the first goal of her varsity career.
“I wasn’t expecting to score a goal,” Julia said. “I’m not one of the top scorers, so it was really shocking for me. I was really happy that I scored the goal on this night of all the nights to score. It was a good feeling.”
Jennifer Biller said that throughout the last year and a half she hasn’t shied away from talking openly to people about it. She said her doctor told her that this is the only type of cancer that nobody should have because a colonoscopy would have detected it and they could have treated it before it turned into cancer.
She also started a blog on a web site called CaringBridge - https://tinyurl.com/y4ejkjt8, where she shares her story and give updates on her progress.
Jennifer Biller said that she’s learned that it’s important to talk to people about it and let people help you in any way they can.
“I have the mindset if anybody offers to do something or brings me something, I let them,” she said. “Because if they are reaching out to me and they have a positive experience, then hopefully they’ll do it more to other people.”
Virginia said she and her family were overwhelmed by the love and support given by her teammates on Tuesday.
“We are very appreciative of this event,” she said. “It’s very special for all of us. Of course, I had no expectations of this. I never expected it. I never thought that they would do something like this. It really does mean the world that they decided to put this together.”