They adopted it as a team rallying cry: "Here’s to our hero, here’s to her fight, here’s to knowing she’s going to be all right."
Durango’s girls soccer players aren’t competing for just a Southwest League title or playoff spot this season. The Trailblazers are playing for Jamie Dean.
Dean, a team captain since her freshman year at Durango, has been forced to miss her senior season after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on Nov. 20.
"When I first found out, I couldn’t even believe what was going on," Dean said. "I miss soccer; I miss my life. Right now, if I was out (of the hospital), soccer would be a big part of it."
Dean, who turns 18 on Monday, played tennis in the fall. She advanced to the Sunset Region doubles final but felt "a lot weaker" than in past years.
Dean originally was believed to be suffering from an immune condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. But after heightened chest pains, she had a blood smear taken, which revealed leukemia cells.
"It was devastating," said her father, Mike Dean. "It’s a night I’ll never forget."
Jamie was a star midfielder for the Trailblazers. As a junior, she earned All-Southwest honors in leading Durango to a 9-4-1 league record and its first playoff appearance since 2004.
Now, she keeps in touch with her teammates from St. Rose Dominican Hospital, Siena campus, where she has undergone the first of three rounds of chemotherapy.
Jamie will be home to celebrate Christmas with her family. A day later, she’ll return to the hospital for the second round. It’s a battle she is determined to win.
"I didn’t ask for this, but I’m going to fight through it," she said.
It’s the same kind of spirit that inspires her teammates, who have dedicated their season to Jamie. Senior forward Janie Bordinhao had purple sweatbands marked "JD#19" made, and the team wears them at every game.
"She’s been my best friend since the third grade," Bordinhao said. "She’ll still always be on the field with us."
Bordinhao now shares captain duties with Jamie’s younger sister, junior stopper Josie Dean, who helps keep teammates updated on Jamie’s status.
"I’ve been using soccer almost as an escape because it gets it off the mind for a little bit," Josie said. "But everything is difficult to get used to right now.
"It hurts not being able to see her all the time. Most of the time I can keep busy with homework, but when I’m not, I get sad. I’m used to saying, ‘Hey, do you want to watch a movie?’ and she’s not there. That’s difficult to deal with."
Jamie has kept up on homework from the hospital when well enough. She has only two required classes remaining after this semester and plans on graduating with her class in June, Mike Dean said.
After Jamie’s third round of chemotherapy — a hospital stay of four to six weeks — she’ll head to a research facility in Oakland, Calif., for a bone marrow transplant her parents hope will help her turn the corner.
"That’ll be the most exciting day of my life, just hearing that she is in remission or totally cured," said her mother, Debbie Dean.
Meanwhile, the Trailblazers (0-3) play on without Jamie. First-year coach Harold Nichols never had the chance to coach her, but she left an impression nonetheless.
"Jamie was probably the first player who came up to me when she heard I was the new head coach," Nichols said. "She welcomed me to the program; she showed her leadership qualities right away."
Even without being on their roster, Jamie still is very much part of the Trailblazers’ psyche.
"It’s just so hard to see anything so horrible happen to someone so innocent," senior forward Oriana Ellis said. "She’s an amazing soccer player, and she doesn’t deserve this.
"We need to do this for her. Everything about this season is for her."
Contact reporter Tristan Aird at email@example.com or 702-387-5203.In-depth high school sports coverage