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Mom taught me to fight

The Indiana Fever's Krystal Thomas, front, was just 16 when her mother died of breast cancer. Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images

Krystal Thomas is in her fourth WNBA season, playing this year with the Indiana Fever. When she was 16, she lost her mother, Natalie, to breast cancer.

When I think of the word "cancer," I don't think of a life-threatening disease. I think of the word "fight." Those who battle cancer on a daily basis exemplify every part of this word. There are no off days. There are no eight-hour shifts. It's a 24/7/365 fight that takes courage, perseverance and strength. That's what astounding women like Kay Yow did, and that's what my mother, Natalie, did.

I was introduced to cancer at the age of 11, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I learned what chemotherapy and radiation were, things I had only seen on TV. There's no getting around the fact that cancer is a nasty disease. But at 11, I was introduced to something much greater than cancer.

I was introduced to what the word "fight" really meant.

You see, that's what I saw when I looked at my mother every day. I didn't see the dark and gloomy side of the disease. No, I saw what undeniable fight, perseverance and strength truly are.

My mother didn't get off days from cancer like I do with basketball; she didn't get full timeouts when she got tired. She fought day and night, like a champion, to lessen her disease. Seeing her fight every day inspired me to chase my dreams. It inspired me to see trials and tribulations in my life as stepping-stones to move forward -- rather than as obstacles to hold me back. My mother always said giving up was never an option. No matter what hurdle cancer threw at her, it wasn't going to stop her from doing what needed to be done.

Stuart Scott said it best in his speech at the ESPYs this month: "Fighting is winning. ... You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."

When I heard him speak those words it resonated so loudly with me because that's what my mother did every single day. While she did lose her battle with cancer after five years, she didn't lose the war. That war, the war of fighting every day, was won because she instilled that quality in me that I carry with me to this day.

During this WNBA week of Breast Health Awareness, I challenge everyone to fight. Conduct monthly self-breast exams and get yearly mammograms. Taking these small steps can have a major impact on one's future.

"Don't give up, don't ever give up." -- Jimmy V.