By Jacie Scott | LSU Student
Young girls view their moms as superheroes, a "Wonder Woman" who fight night monsters in the closet and serve awesome breakfasts the next morning. Most daughters may never see their mother's super powers in real-time action, but there is little doubt they exist.
Growing up as an only child in Florida, first-year LSU Softball Head Coach Beth Torina and her mother, Betty Dieter, shared a similar relationship. Over the years, the bond strengthened to a close support system, Dieter becoming Torina's biggest fan.
But Torina witnessed Super Mom's powers.
Dieter, a 60-year-old elementary music teacher was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last November, the fifth most common cancer among women. It's referred to as the "silent killer" because its symptoms are fairly vague, ranging from no signs to simple nausea and bloating.
Because some of the symptoms can be attributed to other minor illnesses, most cases aren't diagnosed until the cancer is in the latter stages, which were the circumstances Dieter faced.
"Most of the time when ovarian cancer is diagnosed, you're finding it really late," Torina said. "She was already in stage 3 when they found the cancer."
The diagnosis was hard on Torina initially because she couldn't be with her mom as the latter prepared to fight one of her biggest battles. Torina coached at Florida International University in Miami at the time of the diagnosis. Her parents resided in Orlando, Fla. She stayed in the loop through phone calls and trips up and down Florida's Turnpike.
The hardest thing for Torina to grasp was that her mother had led a healthy life. Why cancer?
"It was really difficult. I just couldn't picture it. My mom is so healthy, and doctors said that about her, she's in such good shape for her age. Other than this cancer, she's so healthy. So, it was really shocking to me that something like this could happen, and she, too, was pretty shocked."
Dieter's journey began with a surgery to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible, followed with extensive chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando. Torina said her mother fought through it.
"She's so tough and strong. She made it through all of that in flying colors. She did great. She was on chemo for about a year."
Today, at 62, Dieter is back to living a normal daily life. Her improvement since the treatment has been remarkable, says Torina, and has returned to teaching elementary school music and doing what she loves.
Torina believes that Dieter's doctor helped reinforce her mom's positivity at a time where it could have been easy to be negative. She notes that her doctor never mentioned anything negative at any point during treatment. In addition, Dieter received small gifts for support from family and friends, including the elementary school students she teaches.
"This support was important for her," said Torina. "When she lost her hair, I made sure she had the cutest hats possible. Just little things to try and make it a little bit easier on her."
This experience with Dieter not only strengthened an already tight bond, but it's also helped Torina to appreciate time with family as she prepares her 34-22 Lady Tigers to compete in an NCAA Regional tournament game against Texas State as a part of on Friday.
It made her more aware of how she treats her own body. She incorporates these lessons into her everyday life and works to bring awareness of ovarian cancer through educating the 22 young women that she coaches and holding events such as the Strikeout Ovarian Cancer game held April 21 in Tiger Park, also known as the "Teal Game."
"The Teal Game is where I'm trying to start. Hopefully, we can grow this into something bigger, and make this an annual event. We aren't just spreading awareness. We're going to be celebrating people who have survived this and appreciating their strength."