By Nadia Fung
Jordan Berglin and Audrey Simmons, whose paths converged on a Flagler volleyball court, discovered a deeper connection—one born from a shared journey of watching their mothers bravely battle breast cancer.
Their stories, though distinct, are bound together by a resounding theme of strength, unity and resilience from the most important woman in their lives.
“Audrey’s and my relationship has bloomed from this shared journey,” Berglin said.
Being inspired by the selfless actions of a former teammate who wore pink shoes during Oct. in memory of her mother’s battle with breast cancer, Berglin began wearing pink shoes on the court, standing in solidarity for her own mom. Each time she laces up those shoes, she could almost feel her mother’s words of encouragement, and a promise to never give up.
Jordan and Audrey’s paths first crossed on the Flagler volleyball court, where they found not only a passion for the game but also a deep friendship. As teammates, they shared victories, defeats, and countless hours of training.
However, their connection grew stronger when they discovered a common thread in their lives – both had mothers who had battled breast cancer.
As the bond between Jordan and Audrey deepens, their shared mission gave them daily opportunities to support one another, both on and off the court.
Audrey, a junior hailing from New Hampshire, transferred to Flagler in her sophomore year. It immediately became imminent that she was a powerful outside hitter, where she secured the second-highest number of kills with an impressive tally of 244.
Not only was she a threat from the outside, but she was a brick wall in front of the net being 10th overall in conference blocks per set (0.67).
However, the narrative of her sophomore season took a heart-wrenching turn.
The turning point arrived shortly after the conclusion of a late august preseason tournament when Audrey received a FaceTime call with her family.
What began as a seemingly routine family check-in took a somber turn when her dad’s tone grew serious, conveying the news that her mom had been diagnosed with cancer, a revelation that rattled through the entire family.
“I felt alone in my tears… It seriously felt like my world was turned upside down and I could do literally nothing to help because we were in season, and I couldn’t go home,” she said.
Separated by a daunting 1,226 miles, Audrey found herself torn away from her mother, unable to be there physically during this time.
Words escaped her in the face of uncontrollable tears that streamed down her face, the uncertainty of her mom’s well-being weighing heavily on her heart.
Her mom, Amy Simmons epitomized selflessness and encouraged Audrey not to worry, even though it changed nothing for how Audrey felt in that moment. How could she not worry, her best friend, the woman who instilled her desire to be a mom because of the undeniable love she has for her own children, was now in tears explaining how hard it had been to act normally around the house before everything was confirmed, just so she and her dad could tell the entire family together.
Amy immediately embarked on her treatment journey and the next couple of weeks were an emotional rollercoaster for Audrey. But the distance separating them could never diminish the emotional closeness they shared.
During these challenging times, Audrey found an unwavering source of strength in Jordan’s support. Together, they embarked on a mission that would not only unite their team but also an entire community.
“It was just super awesome to have support in a place that I was new to, and to be able to share that experience with Jordan,” Simmons said.
“For me personally, growing up my whole life, the month of October is like a huge thing for me. I remind myself that I’m playing for something bigger than myself,” Berglin said when questioned about the significance of Oct.
Her dedication to her team goes beyond athleticism; she’s a constant source of inspiration, reminding her teammates to cherish every moment on the court, as tomorrow is never promised.
Jordan, affectionately known as “Berg”, is a true powerhouse from Wisconsin. She is a junior outside hitter for Flagler. She’s not only a force to be reckoned with on the court, leading the team in kills with 333 just in her sophomore season, but she’s also a standout in the classroom.
It’s a lesson she learned through her own journey, particularly that of her mother. Tina Berglin was diagnosed with breast cancer not once but twice during Jordan’s toddler years. As Jordan grew older, the full extent of her mom’s battle gradually became apparent.
“I mean, my mom doesn’t have boobs so that’s a big indicator. As I got older, it was kind of almost just a way of life for me,” Berglin said.
Tina’s battle with breast cancer was grueling; she faced a double mastectomy, a surgical step taken to eliminate any chance of the cancer’s return. During her second diagnosis, her immune system became alarmingly compromised, leading to a life-threatening case of meningitis, a battle arguably as harrowing as breast cancer itself.
“My mom, my whole life, was just the strongest person I knew,” Berglin said.
Throughout these trials, Tina remained an embodiment of strength, leaving a mark on her daughter’s life.
As Oct. approached last year, the pair took the initiative to organize the first Flagler’s inaugural Dig Pink game. With the unwavering support of their team, the St. Augustine community, and The Side-Out Foundation’s Dig Pink program.
They managed to raise an impressive $325 towards metastatic breast cancer research, an area often underfunded despite being the most advanced form of the disease.
Their efforts transcended mere fundraising; it became a moment for the community to contribute to a noble cause, rallying around their loved ones and reflecting on the preciousness of life, knowing that many had been cruelly snatched away by this devastating disease. Their dedication, along with the help of people within Flagler athletics, ensured that this year’s event would be even more special.
Amy, radiant with health and beaming with pride, stood among them, her victory over cancer a testament to the strength of a mother’s love and an unwavering family’s unity.
It was a moment that transcended the boundaries of time and distance, a celebration of life’s resilience, and a reminder that even in the face of adversity, love and support can conquer all.
Due to Amy’s treatment, she was unable to attend the Dig Pink game last year.
“It was super emotional for Berg and me. It was just awesome to have that kind of support in a place that I was new to, and able to share that experience with Jordan,” Simmons said.
On Nov. 16 of last year, Amy Simmons emerged victorious in her battle against breast cancer. The very next day, an unforgettable chapter unfolded in the story of Audrey’s resilience. In a massive van, that carried the boundless love of her entire family, six of them embarked on a 12-hour journey from their home in New Hampshire to North Carolina to surprise Audrey at her NCAA tournament games with the most precious news imaginable.
“I was crying after the game because of how touching it was that a bunch of people cared. It definitely will be different this year because my mom is going to come to the game. I’m sure it will be emotional again,” Simmons said.
The month of Oct. truly held a special place in their hearts. “Me and Audrey both play with a pink bracelet on our ankles just to always remind ourselves,” Jordan shared, her voice filled with emotion, as she recalled the countless hours of training and the shared dreams.
It was a simple yet powerful gesture that connected them to their mothers and to each other, a tangible reminder of their shared mission to turn the pain of their past into hope for the future.