BERKELEY, Calif.— The diagnosis came a few weeks ago for California goalkeeper Jorden LaFontaine-Kussmann — lymphoma.
Now the 18-year-old freshman is about to undergo her second round of chemotherapy to attack a large mass in the middle of her chest. When she told her friends and dorm mates on the men’s soccer team she will soon be bald, they beat her to it: They shaved their heads in support.
“She’s amazing,” said Jordan Bethke, a freshman goalie on the Cal men’s team. “She’s dealing with it like a champ.”
LaFontaine-Kussmann is handling her ordeal with a sense of humor and sense of purpose. She insists she will be back on the field for the 2008 season.
“I kind of just feel like I’m injured for six months,” she said. “I will pick back up where I left off. Not playing soccer is not an option.”
LaFontaine-Kussmann is staying in school, choosing not to return home to Lakewood, Wash., for treatment because of the support at Cal.
The men’s players sporting what are now buzz cuts — the hair is growing back and they plan to shave again — but that’s just the beginning.
Her teammates are wearing navy blue wristbands with the initials “JLK” and lime green warmup shirts donated by the Missouri women’s soccer team. The Cal players also had green bracelets made in honor of Jorde, as they call her, and are planning a head scarf and hat party so she is prepared to stay warm this winter.
Teammate Megan Jesolva cut her hair to have a wig made for LaFontaine-Kussmann. Cal also is trying to get former players involved.
“I sent an e-mail out to the coaches in Division I and asked if they had any experiences to share,” first-year Cal coach Neil McGuire said. “The overwhelming response has been incredible. Not only are we mobilizing but so are other programs.”
When the Bears play at Arizona State on Friday night, the Sun Devils will wear wristbands in her honor. Former Cal coach Kevin Boyd is now at ASU, and he recruited LaFontaine-Kussmann.