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Undercover Barner: Sara Smacks Cancer

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Before we make BERT cry, the Undercover Barner has a small favor to ask.

My mom is my best friend, and she's fighting for her life.
My mom is my best friend, and she's fighting for her life.

Before the merriment of football season commences, or maybe because of it, I have a favor to ask.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have heard that my mom was recently diagnosed with early stage ovarian cancer. If you follow this column, you know what an incredible Auburn Woman my mom is.

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She loves it when I make her take selfies.

Sara Rowe arrived on the plains as a college freshman in 1975, and as she describes it, "never left." That little college town and the friendships she forged there captured her heart and changed her forever. My mom isn’t one to brag, so I’ll do it for her. She was accepted to and graduated from Auburn’s vet school during a time when women weren’t encouraged to do so. She received her masters’ degree while dealing with a headstrong, mischievous toddler. She accepted the interim director position for the State of Alabama Veterinary Diagnostic Lab as a favor in addition to the work she was already doing, not because she expected accolades, but because she believed in work, hard work.

In 1945, George Petrie captured Auburn’s unique spirit in the Auburn Creed:

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.

I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.

I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God."

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.

It’s easy to view Auburn as merely a sports logo or an excuse to gather on autumn Saturdays, but Auburn is a community, too. And look away, outsiders, because Auburn is also a family. My mom met her two best friends when they were assigned as potluck roommates their freshman year. The three remained best friends after graduation, traveling, tailgating, raising families, and believing in Auburn together, regardless of the miles between them. Mom, Ann, and Ginger taught me how to be an Auburn Woman. A little over five years ago, we lost Ann to the same disease mom has now. Ann, true to form, never backed down from the fight.

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From left to right: Ann, Mom, and Ginger

My mother is an Auburn Woman, and she has faced this cancer diagnosis head-on. She’s nothing if not stubborn, and there’s no doubt in her mind she’ll beat it. As an only child, I can tell you from experience that in a battle of wills, never bet against Sara. There’s a reason I hashtag her updates #SaraSmacksCancer.

She’ll start chemotherapy treatment at UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center tomorrow, August 19. Because my class schedule doesn’t allow me to be present for her treatments, mom asked me to wear my Bo Jackson jersey on those days so she’ll know I’m with her in spirit. I got really excited at the prospect, and I mentioned it on Twitter. One of the much-appreciated responses was an offer to wear an Auburn shirt in support, too. That offer struck me as both incredibly thoughtful and something that would touch my mom’s heart.

So here’s where the favor comes in: If you’d be willing, I’d really appreciate it if you could wear something Auburn-themed tomorrow for my mom. And for Ann. And for the millions of women who have fought and who are fighting this disease. It doesn’t have to be a shirt or even anything that specifically says "Auburn." Orange or blue or even just your thoughts would mean a lot. I’m not trying to use this platform to demand attention, but I know that we lean on family when things get tough. The Auburn family is the most supportive and incredible group of people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

My mom does this really embarrassing thing when we shop at Anders or J&M where she tells the girls checking us out, "Remember ladies, always Auburn." But I have to smile because Sara is Auburn, and Auburn is Sara.

She has a spirit that is not afraid.

***Editor's note: If you'd like to, tweet a picture of your Auburn gear to @CollegeAndMag tomorrow with the hashtag #sarasmackscancer and we'll make sure she sees them!