Nooksack Valley’s Delaney Cop is a shy person. She keeps to herself when she can and tries her best to keep her feelings bottled up. She takes after her father in that way.
Still, there she stood.
In the middle of Nooksack Valley High School’s gym at the girls’ wrestling Northwest Conference Championships on Jan. 10, in front of 400 people, hands shaking as she looked down at her notes, Cop’s voice rung through the speakers.
“Cancer is an inconvenience for everyone’s life. It affects not only the cancer patient, but it affects everyone — family, friends, the community,” Delaney, 16, said.
Getting the bad news
Delaney’s father, Bill Cop, was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in October 2014.
Bill, 55, had been feeling ill for a couple weeks before finally deciding to go see a doctor. Less than two weeks later, the doctors told Bill he had cancer.
They didn’t know what caused it, they didn’t know how long he had it and they didn’t know how long the treatment process would be. All they knew is that the outlook is generally positive after treatment. Cancer.org estimates the five-year survival rate at around 80 percent for Bill’s type of cancer.
“The first thing you ask yourself when you get sick is ‘What did I do to do this? Did I do something wrong?’” Bill said. “Then the other part of that is ‘How long have I had it?’ It could have started six months ago. It could have started five years ago. ... This is one of those they just don’t know.”
Bill told Delaney’s mother “a day or two later” and Delaney found out about her dad’s diagnosis shortly after.
Delaney knew her dad had a doctor’s appointment and was texting her mom to find out how it went, knowing there was the possibility of cancer being the diagnosis.
“I thought it was kind of weird because she wasn’t telling me how it went because she usually would,” Delaney said. “I was texting her and she wouldn’t tell me.”
When Delaney arrived home later that day, the news finally came.
“Delaney,” her mom said.
“He does have it?” Delaney asked.
“Yeah,” her mom replied as she gave her daughter a hug.
After trying to hold back, the tears started to flow down Delaney’s face.
“Shocked. Disbelief. Really sad. Not knowing what to do,” Delaney said of what she was feeling at the time.
Delaney is Bill’s youngest of three kids and his only daughter.
The relationship between the two has revolved heavily around sports.
“All of our kids we’ve encouraged to play sports,” Bill said. “I believe it’s just an activity everyone should experience as a youngster. It keeps them motivated and their mind on doing something rather than sitting around and doing whatever kids can do when they’re not playing sports.”
Delaney got into sports as soon as she was eligible to participate in T-ball. She also was the first girl in Whatcom County to play organized football.
She’s participated in just about every sport she has been able to but currently competes in soccer, wrestling and track and field.
“I’m proud of her for trying different sports and wanting to try different sports,” Bill said. “It meant a great deal for me to be able to support her in anything she does with sports.”
Some of the best moments in their relationship for Bill have also come from watching his daughter play sports. Whether it’s seeing his daughter figure out how to swing a bat for the first time by herself or learning a new skill, it’s “those kinds of moments that are the best,” Bill said.
The relationship between the two has only gotten stronger since Bill’s diagnosis.
“I think it has grown better because of us bonding more together,” Delaney said, “because you’re scared. You just want to spend as much time with them no matter what.”
Spreading the word
The news quickly spread through the community and the questions came right after. For a pair of shy people that don’t like to talk about things, everyone wanting to know how the cancer was doing over the next couple months provided its challenges.
Both Bill and Delaney have started to open up and will discuss the situation to those who ask. It’s still a new experience, though.
“Does it make you feel better talking about your feelings?” Bill asked Delaney.
“It’s different,” Delaney replied.
The support proved to be overwhelming from the Nooksack community, particularly through Delaney’s sports.
“You don’t realize how supportive people can get until something like this happens and you’re involved with it because you’re the center of the subject,” Bill said. “I’ve come to realize that maybe there are more people who do care in this world, more than you might think, which is wonderful.”
The dedication of a season
While dealing with her dad’s situation, Delaney struggled in her sports. She originally found out when she was on the Pioneers’ soccer team but the distraction transferred over to her wrestling season.
She was wrestling timid and she needed something to change.
Her coach, Chad Parson, noticed this and sat down with Delaney and her mom.
“I suggested she dedicate her season to her dad,” Parson said in a phone interview. “She loved the idea.”
Since then, Delaney’s had a complete turnaround on the mat.
She’s wrestling more aggressively and finding much more success.
“When I’m about to get pinned or if the girl is going to do a different move, I just think in my head ‘I know I have to do this,’” Delaney said. “I have to win. I have to fight like my dad fights. I put all of that in there to help me with my wrestling.”
The day she announced her dedication at the NWC Championships was a surprise to Bill. He found out that day what the plan was.
“It meant a great deal. I couldn’t believe she had decided to do that,” Bill said. “I was proud of her for doing that. It’s wonderful. It shows me how much she really cares and wants to share with the world her feelings.”
After Delaney finished her speech, tears started to form in her eyes. Her wrestling teammates were coming down from the bleachers, ready to embrace the sophomore in their arms.
“When they were all coming down, it meant so much to see they all just really cared of how we were doing and they really cared about our family and wanted to help,” Delaney said.
The moment lasted minutes. The entire team huddled around Delaney as hundreds of people watched.
“That made me cry,” Parson said. “That was epic. That affected out team. ... To see that happen and have our girls witness it brought our team together. The girls were close to begin with and now they’re even closer. We have someone in our ranks that we are bringing in and putting our arms around and keeping close to us. It’s a great thing to see.”
Delaney hopes to qualify for the state tournament as a sophomore this season while she continues to compete for two wrestling programs — Nooksack Valley and North County Grapplers.
She will continue to participate in high school soccer and track and field, in which she is narrowing her focus to just the throwing events.
Eventually, she hopes to wrestle in college and major in education, as she prepares to be either a second-grade teacher or a special education teacher.
Her dad, who admits he never was someone that set goals, couldn’t be happier that she knows what she wants to do with her life.
“I just love her. A lot,” Bill said. “I think the fact that she’s got goals in her life makes me the happiest. Like some of my boys don’t have any goals yet and they’re older. I would much rather the fact that she has got some goals and got ideas with what she wants to do with her life. That makes me so happy. I’ll support her in every way I possibly can and do whatever it takes to help her accomplish her goals. I’m always going to be there for her.”
As Delaney said in her speech, cancer affects everyone involved.
Both father and daughter have plenty of takeaways from the entire situation.
For Delaney, it’s helped her grow up much quicker than she imagined she would have to.
“I think it’s made me a lot stronger and more capable of doing things that I usually wouldn’t think I’d be able to do, like talking in front of everyone or say how I’m feeling about things,” Delaney said. “I think doing all of this in the process has made me be more mature about everything, figuring out what is going to happen next and what I’m going to do next. It’s helped me be more independent and work harder about the the things I care about and be a better person than I was before.”
As for Bill, it’s what he wants his kids to take away from the situation that stands out the most.
“To be able to deal with adversity and move on no matter what the circumstances are. That would be the main point there,” Bill said. “Sometimes you’re kind of numb to things that go on in life until you’re directly affected in some way. Sometimes you don’t realize the downside of life. The days that just aren’t going for you, people don’t look at it in the same way when you’ve been through it. That’s what hopefully my kids will take from it. Take whatever comes your way and move on.”
Bill underwent his fourth treatment last week and will get a better picture of how long the treatment process will be in the coming weeks. To donate to Bill’s cause, visit a donation website for him at http://www.gofundme.
His outlook on life remains the same despite the cancer and he is still working full time while going to various doctor’s appointments and treatments at least three times a week.
“I’ve had a neutral approach to this,” Bill said. “I figure it is what it is and we just move on day by day and deal with it.”