Members of the Ladies European Tour wore green badges during the first round of the Deloitte Ladies Open, printed with the words: fight, Cass, fight!
They are sending a message to fellow tour professional Cassandra Kirkland, who is undergoing treatment in France after being diagnosed with lung cancer in mid-April, following the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
Cassandra, who won the Sanya Ladies Open in China on the Ladies European Tour in 2012 and claimed another title at the Fourqueux Ladies Open on the LET Access Series in 2013, is happy to tell her story. “I want to be an example and show that being an athlete is really a help in surviving what I am going through,” she said. “I am really touched that the players will wear a badge for me. It gives me a lot of strength to feel the support from the girls.”
Cassandra was one of the most health conscious players on the tour. She never smoked, rarely drank alcohol and was fully committed to healthy eating and keeping fit. Over the pre-season training period this winter, she was in the gym for three hours a day to prepare for the 2015 golf season, but everything changed when she was diagnosed with the life-threatening disease.
She recounted her story from hospital, where she is undergoing her fourth round of chemotherapy, explaining: “In mid-February I had a flu which lasted for four days and it turned into a sore throat and I started coughing a lot. It went away then for a couple of weeks I was coughing at night.
“I played in Morocco for the first two days and made the cut, but then I felt horrible and when I went home to the doctor, they thought it was asthma. I took medication for asthma but it wasn’t working so I went to have an x-ray and they told me that it looked like a big infection. I needed to go for a scan to clear the situation and see what I had, but it was Easter so I had to go to the emergencies (only way to get the quickest diagnosis) and they kept me in isolation.
“After that they went into my lungs to get samples and do cultures. It took a couple of days to get the results. I was in the hospital for eight or nine days until the oncologist came and told me I had a cancerous lesion in my lung. That’s when they told me I had to be transferred to oncology and realised I had lung cancer.
“I have two metastases next to my belly button, and two in a bone in my back so they think I have had it for a year or so. It is crazy if I had it that long that I never realised it. I guess as athletes we don’t listen enough to our bodies. Whenever we are tired we think it is because of the hard work we put into our job.”
Despite having to go through three days of chemotherapy every 21 days, Cassandra, 30, from Paris, is remarkably upbeat and added: “I’m super positive and I feel really good. I’m shocked how well I’m dealing with it and I don’t know if it’s because I’m a professional sportswoman or because of my personality. Having a job as a pro golfer where you are always fighting makes you a lot stronger and people are surprised how strong I am.
“I am not at all ashamed of what is happening to me. It is not my fault. It shows it can happen at any age and to young, healthy athletes. I’d like to thank all the girls for supporting me; I really appreciate it and it gives me a lot of strength to fight my cancer. I want to be an example and show that it’s possible.”
Everyone on the Ladies European Tour wishes Cassandra a speedy recovery and hopes to see her back on tour soon.