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CSU basketball star and UCHealth cancer survivor share unique bond

Fifth-year player Chandler Jacobs met Rebecca Steiner through the team's Bigger Than Basketball event. He didn't anticipate becoming her new biggest fan.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Rebecca Steiner is many things to many people, but one word sticks out.

"I like 'survivor,'" she said.

A breast cancer survivor, to be exact. Steiner was one of many cancer survivors from Northern Colorado invited to Colorado State's third-annual UCHealth Bigger than Basketball night.

Steiner wasn't planning to attend the big event on Friday. She heard the game would be close to a sell-out (it was--8,083 people packed Moby Arena), and that made her feel uneasy as an immunocompromised person.

Prior to the game on Friday January 28, the survivors had the chance to meet the entire Colorado State men's basketball team and coaching staff, as well as the rest of their group via Zoom.

"I don't think I realized the magnitude of it," she said. "I got to hear everyone else's story and I didn't feel alone."

That, and her immediate connection with her paired player Chandler Jacobs, were the catalysts for her last-minute change of heart.

"I read Rebecca's letter and it brought me to tears. I was trying to keep it cool in front of my teammates but it brought me to tears just because thinking about what she's been through and what her family's been through and thinking about how special of a night this was for her," Jacobs said.

After hearing that she was deciding to stay back, Jacobs wrote Steiner a heart-felt email with a clear message.

"To take the time out of what I'm sure is his busy schedule to email me, and to tell me that I'm inspiring him, and that he sees my spirit and energy, I wrote him back and said, 'if you see that, that means a lot to me,' because you don't have a lot of energy going through this, and it really meant a lot to me," Steiner said.

She felt seen, and saw the same energy reflected back from her new teammate.

"That means a lot to me because this whole time, I wanted to do something for her so badly. To hear that she felt the same energy and vibrancy for me is humbling," Jacobs said. "I'm extremely grateful for that, that's amazing."

January 28 was separately a special day for Steiner -- it was another birthday she was strong enough to celebrate. Jacobs got wind of this and bought her a bouquet of flowers, personally presenting them to her two hours before tip-off.

"One thing that I always want to do is, the people that are around me, I want them to feel seen, I want them to feel loved, I want them to feel valued and cared for," he said. "That's just the sole motivation and the purpose and the lens in which I see my life."

Steiner was moved to tears when she saw her last name sewn onto the back of his number 13 jersey, and even screamed "that's my guy!" when he was announced in the starting lineup.

"I'm feeling seen, I'm feeling special today, I feel honored to be a part of this and to have him wear my name on his jersey," she said. "You know, you kind of get jaded going through some of this and there is some hope there to be positive. And I made it through."

It was perhaps even more demonstrative in the team's loss that everyone on the court at the end of the night left a winner.

"It just puts life into perspective and getting an opportunity to meet her and seeing her carry those flowers that I got for her everywhere, it definitely made life lighter," Jacobs said. "Not just this game, but life in general."

RELATED: Buffs partner with UCHealth on 'Bigger Than Basketball' initiative

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