October has extra meaning for Rapids' Cooke as sister battles cancer

Academy and assistant coach's sister improving after detecting breast cancer early

Commerce City, Colo. – Things were going pretty well for Steve Cooke (above right) early in 2012.

While managing his duties as one of the Directors of the Colorado Rapids Youth Academy, first team head coach Oscar Pareja also began integrating Steve into the pro side training sessions during preseason.

When the regular season began, Steve began taking on key roles, including running the training sessions for the reserve players while the team was on the road, and assisting the first team training sessions on a regular basis. He then also assumed the task of providing players videos of their play, as well as their opponents.

But it was a phone call he received from England in the spring that brought a halt to the momentum he was experiencing professionally.

“In April I got a call from my dad to let me know the news that my sister Joanne had found a lump in her breast,” Cooke told ColoradoRapids.com. “Obviously that worried me so I called her right away. She explained that she went in for the test and they found that it was cancer in the breast and it had spread to the lymph nodes.”

Joanne is a year and a half older than Steve, the two growing up together in Sheffield, England with their parents. It was tough news for the younger brother to hear.

“We have a pretty close knit family,” he said. “We had a normal childhood, which meant a lot of fights and things like that, arguing and such. But now, as always happens, we have a great relationship.”

It’s been 16 years since Steve moved to the United States. After spending six years working on the Sheffield Wednesday academy system, he came to the U.S. to coach kids in Phoenix and Las Vegas before joining the Rapids in 2010.

Joanne now lives in Birmingham, England with her husband, 15-year-old son, and 13-year-old daughter.

Their parents have moved in with Joanne to help while she undergoes treatment, making Steve more comfortable since there’s not much he feels he can do from across the pond.

“I’m 5000 miles away, so it’s not easy to get the emotions straight,” he said. “The only thing I can do is offer support and talk to her and her kids. I call every few days to make sure everything is ok.”

In July he returned to England to complete a UEFA A coaching refresher course and was able to stay an extra 10 days to spend with his sister and the family. He brought her a team autographed pink ball, given to him by the late Marisa Colaiano. It was time he needed to convince himself that Joanne was going to pull through.

MORE: Rapids go 'pink' on Saturday to support Soccer Kicks Cancer

“We’re optimistic,” he said. “She caught it pretty early while showering and went immediately to get it checked. I think that early detection is really important. And now she’s in great care.”

Last week Joanne completed her sixth round of chemotherapy. All indications are that she’ll be cancer free, soon.

“She always been a very positive person, always upbeat in her spirits,” Cooke said. “I have some great memories from our time together, but with my sister being the fighter that she is, we know we’re going to have many more.”

On Saturday, Cooke expects to be wearing pink like many others in the stadium in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month. However, for Steve, the day will have added importance.

“It didn’t have a lot of meaning to me until I came to MLS and started working with the Rapids, and every October it’s highlighted as Breast Cancer Awareness month,” he said. “And obviously this year, it’s had a more significant meaning because now it’s affected me close to home.

"I'll be wearing bits of pink to honor my sister and her family, and the work that my family is doing to support her. My attention is on my sister and realizing how close this is to all of us.”