Whether it’s lifelong friends, former teammates, or just casual acquaintances, nearly everyone who’s met Lisa Brinkmeyer comes away with the same glowing assessment.
Someone who can handle anything and everything.
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Brinkmeyer’s name circulated in Iowa athletic circles for most of his life – first as a basketball star at Hubbard-Radcliffe High School and Drake University, later as vice principal of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union where Brinkmeyer is a Hall of Famer. .
For decades, she has been a lifeline for many Iowa athletes and their families. Now that support comes full circle as Brinkmeyer pulls off the toughest fight of his life.
Diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this spring, Brinkmeyer spent the next few months on a rocky journey that included grim updates and several jarring turns.
Her bubbly and confident personality was tested more than ever. The weight of the situation could bring down even the strongest person.
But not Brinkmeyer. Not with her unwavering attitude inspiring so many around her. Not with his widening circle pouring out love and encouragement at every turn.
“We’re not talking about the end of the game. We’re focused on what we can do right now,” said Iowa women’s basketball assistant head coach Jan Jensen, who recruited Brinkmeyer for Drake. and has been a friend ever since. “Lisa is working so hard right now. It’s not easy. She gets tired, but she gets a lot of energy from people. She can really lighten the mood when everyone might be a little sad. She will tell a story or crack a joke that’s still vintage Lisa.
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“She just focuses on the positives and works really hard to help everyone else do the same. It’s really inspiring. It’s pretty awesome to watch and it’s really true to who she is. Nothing at all it’s no surprise. She has so many people praying for her, supporting her, keeping her uplifted. And she feels that energy. I know it keeps her going.
While each day offers a new challenge in its own way, nothing better illustrates the remarkable fight Brinkmeyer is delivering than what happened just a few weeks ago.
After an intense stretch that included emergency brain surgery, which added occupational therapy in addition to radiation therapy, it seemed unlikely that Brinkmeyer would be able to attend one of his favorite events – Hubbard Days – hosted in his hometown though. -loved. The three-day celebration was scheduled for June 10-12, featuring everything from golf competitions to tractor pulls and car shows.
In theory, it was the perfect distraction. But Brinkmeyer — an avid golfer in addition to all her other sporting accomplishments — would she really be up for something like this? Her husband Ted thought maybe a few putts and that was it.
Not even close. Brinkmeyer played nine holes of golf that day, wowing close friends and family members who have seen her up close for decades. It was an inspiring performance in the middle of weeks with few positives.
“His physical therapist was like, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Jensen said. “That’s who she is. She doesn’t give up.”
Jodi Jansen has observed the same attitude for nearly half a century. The two have been best friends since growing up in Hubbard. They speak on the phone every day at 8:03 a.m. sharp and intertwine through countless unforgettable memories over the years.
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There is still shock at the situation. But more than anything, Jansen knows that if anyone can emerge on the other side of this sane, it’s Brinkmeyer. That’s why she and so many others are ready to help in any way possible.
“No matter what it was, you were always part of its success,” Jansen said. “And she knows that now it’s our turn – her whole network – to be part of her success again. She trained us very well. She taught us how to keep her mentally alive. She always made us feel that we were part of her team, which is why I think there are so many people reaching out and wanting to do things, just because of how she made us feel like she was part of his success.
Nicole McBean has a particular perspective on exactly that. A former college teammate of Brinkmeyer, McBean was the only black player on Drake’s women’s basketball team in her freshman season in 1993.
Naturally, there was some apprehension about entering a new environment. But there was Brinkmeyer, candid and welcoming as always, making sure his new teammate felt as comfortable as possible.
“Lisa was so genuine,” McBean said. “She really knocked me down like I belonged. And then it wasn’t necessarily talked about like it is now about diversity, inclusion and belonging. It came naturally to him. That’s how she was raised and that’s how her family was. They welcomed me on trips to Hubbard with open arms.
“Lisa, she has a heart of gold and the biggest heart ever. She wants everyone to feel included. She and I formed a super-fast friendship. She is one of my best friends that I have in this world. It’s largely because of who she is.
Who Is Brinkmeyer has made everyone around her feel the same confidence she has that this situation can eventually be overcome. Who Brinkmeyer is can be attributed to why so many have felt called to help – whether it’s something as big as the Brink’s Bench t-shirt movement dedicated to helping raise money for family and brain cancer research, or something as simple as a motivational card or text.
So many people have benefited from Brinkmeyer’s knowledge over the years. It’s only fitting that so many people reciprocate in this time of dire need.
“She’s just woven so deeply,” her brother Blain Brinkmeyer said, “into so many people’s lives.”
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preparations for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.