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January 23, 2019

12/14/2018 1:48:00 PM

There is a saying in sports that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back.
That may be true but the name on the back of the warm-up t-shirts worn by the women's and men's basketball teams at UW-Platteville last Saturday was pretty important too.
The name was in Palmer in the six-year-old daughter of Pioneer women's basketball coach Megan (Hodgson) Wilson who is battling childhood cancer. It is a very rare form of cancer known as Stage 3 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma. It was discovered last June when Megan wiped her daughter's nose after a sneeze and noticed a bump. The bump turned out to be a malignant tumor.
Prior to that Megan was preparing for the 2018-19 women's basketball season and performing her duties as associate athletic director at UW-P. But when the lump on Palmer's face got bigger further tests were in order.
At first the growth was thought to be a benign cyst but as it increased in size a biopsy was performed. It didn't take long for the results to arrive and when they did Megan heard the word no parent wants to hear...cancer.
That is when the whirlwind started. Palmer was admitted to American Family Children's Hospital in Madison and Megan stayed at her side. Her husband, Josh and twins Aiden and Brody have helped as much as they could.
A 43 week treatment plan has been underway which includes both chemotherapy and radiation. The radiation is starting now which will take Megan away from her team and her duties at UW-P. The family has secured a place in Madison to stay so Palmer won't have to have her little body put through two hour trips back and forth from Lancaster every day. It will make for a hard Christmas and a difficut several weeks but the goal is to get Palmer cured.
Megan's last game with the Lady Pioneers at least for a month to seven weeks was last Saturday.  It was a day to tell Palmer how much she is loved and how much hope is there for her to beat childhood cancer. Both the women's and men's teams wore t-shirts with Palmer's name on the back...#Palmerstrong...telling her no one fights cancer alone.
Palmer was part of pre-game ceremonies. Between the games the Platteville and Loras women's teams and the Platteville and Central Iowa men's teams assembled on the floor, formed a circle and put their arms around each other as Father David Flanagan (a Mineral Point native) of St Lima's Parish, Cuba City, led everyone in prayer. Players then touched hands with Palmer as they left the court.
While this was the day for Palmer there have been many days where people have done many things to show her she is loved.
The community of Platteville is one of them. Lancaster where the Wilsons live and Josh has a chiropractic business in their home as the kids attend Lancaster schools is another. Megan's hometown of Barneveld and all places in between have turned out to help. At the Barneveld boys game last week a miracle minute was held and raised over $1000.
Megan says she can't believe the support. It started with the time the Wilson's world fell apart suddenly and is still continuing. It goes without saying the family is overwhelmed with all the support.
Megan returned to coach the team between visits for treatment. She wasn't sure if she should take a leave of absence or not but the team told her they understand Palmer comes first and they will have her back throughout. She decided to do as much as she could.
"Here are young girls 18-21 years old who came to Platteville for a great experience and they end up on a roller coaster ride," Megan says.
The team showed Saturday they are having a great experience. They were down early, came back to two points down but could not close it out. They played with heart and passion. They fought much like Palmer is fighting every day.
"She is a rock star," Megan says about Palmer. "When you see a six- year-old go through this it breaks my heart. I would trade places with her if I could."
An unsung hero in this story is her first year assistant coach Jim Myers. Jim was her high school coach and led the teams her junior and senior years to WIAA Division 4 state titles. Megan had been asking him to come and join her since he retired from coaching but his plans were to watch his son, Matthew, play in college. Matthew is a sophomore guard on the Edgewood College team.
But Palmer's diagnosis changed all that and Jim started making daily trips to Platteville to help. He and Alexa Tovella, Megan's other assistant and one of her best friends, will guide the team in her absence.
"I couldn't imagine going through this without Jim's help," Megan said. "He has been my mentor and I know he has my back. He is sacrificing for me and my family right now. I always knew he was that kind of person."
Jim was at home Saturday on Bo Ryan Court. He knows basketball is important to the girls on the Pioneers team and he knows the battle his former player is fighting with her daughter is overwhelming. He has been coaching for 40 years and has not slowed down one bit.
And as Megan says, he has her back.
Saturday was a long day for Palmer and she tired out as the men's game started. She was home resting by halftime when Megan was overwhelmed again.
Two presentations were made to help Palmer and other children with cancer in their fight. First was a $3000 check from the Friends of Platteville and the other a $5000 check from Northwestern Mutual Life. In all over $10,000 was raised that day.
It was emotional. It was passionate. It was proof of one huge thing.
No Child Fights Alone.

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