The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 4, 2012

Family, community rallies around cheerleading coach


Staff Writer

TARBORO — PINETOPS — As a family faces an uphill battle, a community rallies.

“It has been overwhelming and humbling to see how everyone steps in when your whole world is devastated,” said Teresa Mobley. “In times like this, you’re very grateful for small towns and everybody knowing everybody and loving everybody.”

Mobley, the cheerleading coach at SouthWest Edgecombe High School was diagnosed with leukemia on Aug. 30. Since then, the high school community has shown its support to her and her family.

“The whole football team and the cheerleaders all wear orange [the color of leukemia awareness] on Fridays,” said Tonia Summerlin, Teresa’s 17-year-old daughter and cheerleading team captain at SouthWest. Many of her classmates and cheer teammates proudly don orange shirts with the words “No, leukemia, you can’t have my second mama,” screen-printed on the back.

“She looks at us like her second kids,” said 17-year-old Makyah Arrington, also a cheerleader. Cancer has not slowed down the “Supermom,” who still attends cheerleading practice with her daughter every day.

“She’s a hard-headed woman. This will not beat my mama,” said Summerlin. “When she got diagnosed, she wasn’t worried about herself. She was worried about us.”

Mobley, who is married to Scott Mobley, has three other children – Jarratt Mobley, 14, Brayden Mobley, 9, and McKenlee Mobley, 4. While Mobley’s family is her whole world and reason for getting up every morning, she has an extended family as well – the team that literally cheers her on every day.

“I have 34 girls who depend on me. Their determination to help get me through this has helped me stay positive when chemo is kicking my butt and I’d rather stay in bed,” said Mobley. She told the girls, “We’re a team and a team is only as strong as the weakest link and I won’t be the weakest link if you won’t.”

In her years of coaching cheerleading, Mobley said she has never seen a group of girls who care about their team as much as her squad at SouthWest.

“It really has brought everybody together,” she said. “It used to be about winning competitions and now it’s about making sure everybody’s OK.”

“Now, everybody’s stronger than we used to be,” said Arrington. “We’re one.”

“One team, one heart,” as cheerleader Kelly Ellis says.

Like the cheerleading team, Mobley’s family has learned that life is not always fair, but she believes God chose her family to face the obstacle of cancer because, “He knew that we were all strong enough to face it.”

Another obstacle the Mobley family has faced a football injury that left him Jarratt with two broken arms. Doctors told him he would never be able to play football again, but he is playing football and throwing even harder than ever, Summerlin said.

“You can beat anything,” she said. Since her mother’s diagnosis, she has stepped up to take Brayden on school field trips since her mother is no longer able to take him, and everyone has pitched in to keep the house in immaculate condition. (Mobley cannot be exposed to germs because of her low white blood count and inability to fight infection). The day her classmates found out about Teresa, “15 of them came to my house and wiped down everything,” Summerlin said.

Mobley is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, but is in need of a bone marrow transplant to rid her body of the cancer.

The SouthWest community will rally around the Mobley Family once again for a bone marrow drive in hopes of identifying a donor. The drive will be held from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13 in the school gymnasium. The goal for the drive is 100 people. If a donor is identified, the target date for Mobley to have her transplant is December.

“If I have the transplant and it’s successful, I’m cured and I never have to worry about this again,” she said. The success rate for bone marrow transplants is 50 percent.

Summerlin expects her mother to beat the odds, and beat the illness. A few months ago, cancer was the farthest thing from the high-school senior’s mind.

“I was worried about graduation, applying to college,” she said, adding she and the rest of the family have “matured a lot” since her mother’s diagnosis.

“I don’t worry about little things anymore. Life’s too precious,” said Jennifer Britt, Summerlin’s friend and cheerleading teammate. “We’ve learned what’s valuable.

These days, Summerlin is just taking things “one day at a time.”

“You go through stages of grief,” she said. First, you get upset, then you get angry, then you ask, “Why?” Finally, you get “headstrong,” determined to win the fight with cancer.

That resolve to fight, the power of prayer, and community support have helped the Mobley Family cope. One of the most touching moments of Summerlin’s day is listening to her siblings Brayden and McKenlee pray every night.

“They say, ‘I hope mommy gets better and we can find a donor.’”

“We’re looking for a hero,” Mobley said of her potential donor.