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Football: Cure Bowl match seems like fate for Maggard, Cajuns

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Dec. 14, 2018

Click here for video by Kerry Maggard. 

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Kerry Maggard and her husband, UL athletic director Bryan Maggard, attended the the Lourdes Foundation Blessings Soiree at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center Meditation Garden in Oct. 17. Kerry Maggard is now battling breast cancer as UL prepares to play Tulane at the Cure Bowl in Orlando. (Photo: Courtesy of Lourdes Regional Medical Center)

In a milestone birthday year, Kerry Maggard was diligent.

She had a general-health checkup, saw a gynecologist and — in mid-September — had her annual mammogram.

All was well.

“Probably a month after that, just on my own,” she said, “I felt something that might be…”

Might be.

Right away, Maggard dialed the phone.

Now — as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team prepares to play Tulane on Saturday at the Cure Bowl in Orlando, a postseason game dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research — the wife of UL athletic director Bryan Maggard willingly shares in great detail a very personal story with the hope that others may benefit from being reminded of a road more than a quarter-million women in America are traveling this year alone.

According to breastcancer.org, about one out of every eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime; for 2018, it was estimated that 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in U.S. women along with nearly 64,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.

On Oct. 26, Maggard was diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma — the most common form of breast cancer, representing 80 percent of all diagnoses, according to hopkinsmedicine.org.

About a month later, the Ragin’ Cajuns learned they were headed to the now 4-year-old Cure Bowl.

More: How UL went from 1-3 to a bowl team

“It makes you wonder if this isn’t fate, or apropos, or something like that, of course,” Bryan Maggard said.

“I don’t chalk it up to coincidence. But it does make this bowl a lot more special, that’s for sure.”

And not just for the Maggards.

“Being that this is the ‘Cure Bowl,’ and what it stands for, made me think that there is a divine reasoning behind us attending this bowl,” said Denise Juluke, the wife of first-year Cajuns running back coach Jabbar Juluke.

“I’m kind of grateful that we’re participating … because we can be, Kerry (Maggard) and I, a voice for others that maybe are … worried about whether or not they’ll get through it, and just be a hope for other women who are going through any form of cancer.”

Juluke, a mother of three, is in remission from Stage 3 breast cancer.

“I hope we can be a testimony, or we can be an example, for families that are going through the situation,” Jabbar Juluke said.

More: UL bowl journey began with seniors buying into Napier

Testimony, that is, to the fact that it’s a disease that can be beat — and that with more research comes only more chance for a cure.

But it takes a fight, and the Maggards are embarking on theirs now.

'Just come in'  

 After Kerry Maggard felt something that just didn’t feel quite right, she made that doctor’s office call.

“Thank goodness the nurse said, ‘Just come in; we’ll just rule it out,’ ” she said.

“The doctor didn’t think it was anything, but she did the right thing. She said, I’m gonna have you go ahead and go back to the radiologist; they’ll just do a quick test to rule it out, or figure out what it was.”

Two weeks later, while busy preparing for an evening visit from members of UL’s women’s soccer team, Maggard’s phone rang.

“They called and said, ‘We can slip you in around 1 if you can come,’ ” she said. “I said, ‘I’ve got girls coming over; how long will it take?’ They said, ‘We’ll have you in and out in an hour.’ ”

More: Napier wants Cajuns to overcome bowl-week distractions

The visit lasted much longer than that.

“They went from one test to another test to a biopsy,” Maggard said. “Once I started reading the looks on the techs’ and the doctor’s faces, I started getting nervous.

“About four hours later the doctor looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I need you to know I’m worried about this.’ ”

What ensued was a long 24 hours of waiting for pathology results to return.

At around 5 p.m. on a Friday, the diagnosis was delivered. Two days later, Maggard was on an airplane for a pre-planned trip to support the UL men’s golf team at a tournament in Hawaii.

Talk about whirlwind.

“I’ll be really honest: It’s been a really hard, really emotional few weeks,” Maggard said. “It took (a while) to where I could actually think about talking about it.”

Column: For Cajuns, Tulane matchup trumps locker room tears

Time to process

The first thing Maggard had to do was digest the diagnosis.

Knowing she had the most-common form of breast cancer, and that it has been caught early, helped.

“There’s a lot of protocol and history based on what they’ve learned,” she said, “so that’s comforting to know the doctors have dealt with this many, many times before.”

Then came breaking the news to the empty-nest couple’s three adult children.

Son Dalton lives now in Tennessee. Daughter Aubrey is back in Missouri, where Maggard worked for two-plus-decades in the University of Missouri athletic department before taking UL’s top job last year. And youngest-daughter Kaylin studies dance in New York, at The Juilliard School. 

“Bryan and I spent about the first 10 days just processing it ourselves,” Maggard said, “and waiting on some preliminary biopsy results that maybe would give the kids a little more information before we FaceTimed them each individually in their separate states.”

More: Win against Tulane in Cure Bowl would secure winning season for Cajuns

On Oct. 8, Maggard underwent surgery to remove a tumor and lymph nodes.

Another period of waiting and wondering and followed.

Again, the news was good.

“Thank goodness,” Kerry Maggard said, “it had not spread to the lymph nodes and they had clear margins around the tumor.”

But there’s more to her fight.

Bryan Maggard, accompanied by wife Kerry, was introduced as UL's athletic director on Feb. 1, 2017.

Bryan Maggard, accompanied by wife Kerry, was introduced as UL's athletic director on Feb. 1, 2017.  (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE / USATODAY Network)

At a minimum, 20 rounds of radiation await. She’ll take a hormone blocker. And when she spoke last weekend, Maggard was still awaiting results of a test to determine the full treatment plans and if in her case chemotherapy would favorably alter the percentage of odds against reoccurrence.

“There are so many that go through such bigger battles,” Maggard said, “and to say it’s Stage 1 — as scary as it was to get the diagnosis — truly we are thankful that we are where we are.

“And we’ll do what we need to do to get through this.”

'Another emotional moment'

Shortly after the Cajuns beat UL Monroe to win the Sun Belt Conference West Division on the last Saturday in November, the league announced that the loser of the inaugural SBC championship game between the Cajuns and Appalachian State would go to the Cure Bowl.

The winner, it had been previously announced, would go to the New Orleans Bowl.

“That was another emotional moment,” Maggard said of the Sun Belt’s Cure Bowl announcement, adding she had “goosebumps to think that that could be where we ended up.”

As it turned out, UL lost 30-19 to App State on Dec. 1 in chilly, rainy Boone, North Carolina.

Related: For Cajuns, too many mistakes in Sun Belt title loss

“I can sincerely tell you I cheered for the Ragin’ Cajuns to win that championship. As hard as anyone on that cold sideline,” Kerry Maggard said. “But when we found out that (the Cure Bowl) was our destination, it was just really special. Really meaningful.”

The Julukes felt the same way.

“I believe in fate,” Jabbar Juluke said, “and I believe everything happens for a reason.”

“Just because of the way our Higher Power works,” Denise Juluke said, “and the recent diagnosis of Kerry … it really wasn’t a surprise for me.”

The game’s mission is the reason the match seems so natural.

“It’s extremely impressive, what they’ve accomplished in a short amount of time,” Bryan Maggard said. “And I think as long as they continue with that identity, with ‘the cure,’ that they’ll continue to add more and more dollars to research and help find an ultimate cure to this disease.”

More: UL football, what you need to know

'An unbelievable thing'

Since 2015, the Cure Bowl has donated more than $3.5 million to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“It’s an unbelievable thing that they’re doing,” Jabbar Juluke said, “and I’m excited that we’re a part of it.”

He’s not alone.

“It’s incredible,” Kerry Maggard said.

“There are a lot of great, great charitable organizations – and some of them have to cover administrative costs. But I learned a little bit more about the Cure Bowl operation, the business side of it, (recently), and I believe that $3.55 million has fed directly into doctors’ research.

“It’s a great, great cause,” she added. “Thirty-nine bowls, and this one is my favorite right now.”

That’s why Maggard tells her tale, and Denise Juluke offers her voice.

“I think it’s been very helpful, just over the past several days, being able to tell her story a little bit and go public with it,” Bryan Maggard said of  his wife.

More: UL's Hill will have surgery; Cure Bowl status uncertain

The storytelling, though, has a larger purpose beyond being personally cathartic.

“Everything just kind of connected when we ended up at the Cure Bowl,” Kerry Maggard said.

“There’s got to be a reason why we’re in the place we’re in (personally), and why our team is going to the place they’re going.

“And if there’s an opportunity to help somebody, to encourage somebody to maybe get a checkup they’ve been putting off, or get a mammogram that’s been delayed because of ‘life’ and business,” she added, “then, absolutely, I want to use our story to help any way.”

The Julukes understand that sentiment.

“Going to the Cure Bowl gives us an opportunity to get Denise’s story out there,” Jabbar Juluke said, “and give some … encouragement for others who are going through a similar situation to know that there is going to be a cure someday, that the research is getting better and better, and that we are living testimony that through perseverance that we can strive to do anything we want to do.”

More: It's UL vs. Tulane in Orlando's Cure Bowl

FANS ENCOURAGED TO DONATE TICKETS

UL is encouraging fans who can’t travel to Saturday’s Cure Bowl in Orlando between the Ragin’ Cajuns and Tulane to buy one or more tickets at $25 each so they can be donated to charitable recipients in Orlando and benefit the postseason game, which raises funds that go directly to breast cancer research.

To purchase tickets, donors can contact the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation (RCAF) by calling (337) 851-2903. Purchases are 100-percent tax deductible, according to UL.

“I think everyone on the team, everyone in our travel party, knows someone who’s been affected by breast cancer – and if it’s not a close family member, then it’s probably a close friend’s family member,” said Kerry Maggard, the wife of UL athletic director Bryan Maggard and someone very recently diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer herself. “That’s how prevalent it is. So by donating $25 to (buy) a ticket that benefits breast cancer research, I think we all benefit from that.”



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