Oswego's Aiyana Lamb, a local 10-year old, shares deep connection with Oswego State women’s lacrosse team
OSWEGO — Ten-year old Oswego resident Aiyana Lamb has three brothers: a 9-year-old, 4-year-old and a nearly 10-month-old. The only human girl she has in her family is her mother, Alizabeth Birks.
Lamb does have her two girl dogs, Lexi and Riley, her female cat, Emmy, and a Betta fish named Ariel. Thanks to help from Jill Jaquin, a teacher’s assistant at Minetto Elementary School, and her daughter Riley Jaquin, Lamb now has nearly 30 older “sisters” to look up to on the Oswego State women’s lacrosse team.
For Birks, “it’s wonderful” to have that kind of support system for her daughter.
“It’s great for Aiyana to have a close group of girls to show her some strength and help push her along,” she said. “I just sit back and watch. I like watching them talk to her. It’s great to have those girls in her life.”
Lamb has a benign brain tumor called Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma. She was diagnosed with it when she was just 3-years old and the tumor was about the size of a tennis ball, according to Birks. Following a couple of surgeries to get rid of the tumor, Lamb began chemotherapy for a year.
After the chemo treatments, Lamb began having MRIs every three months, eventually moving to having one every six months. The tumor was growing right when she graduated to the nine-month cycle of MRIs.
When the tumor started to grow again, even more support came for Lamb, this time in the form of “Aiyana’s Unicorns.” To raise awareness, gray T-shirts were made as well as gray rubber bracelets. Jill happened to be wearing one at school when Riley noticed it and asked what it was all about. Then, Riley and Lamb formed an extremely close bond.
“I used to go in and help with my mom’s classroom. (Aiyana) was always with me and never left my side,” Riley said. “She would watch our (women’s lacrosse) games on the live stream. She was really interested in the team and wanted to meet everybody, so I made that happen.”
With the help of Oswego State head coach Brittany Howard, Lamb was able to go to her first women’s lacrosse game on March 7. Before the game, Lamb went into the locker room and met the players. And since she loves to dance, the team was able to have a dance party to her favorite song, “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten.
Senior Montana Garrett mentioned that it would be a day that the team never forgets, and that it “brought (the team) really close in that moment.” She also added that her parents were at that game, and after she told them what happened, “even (her) dad was emotional about it.”
“I’ll never forget holding her hand while she was dancing,” she said. “I could just see in her face that nothing else she was going through mattered. It was just that moment. That is what she wanted.”
Lamb also got to go on the field with the team and sit with them on the bench during the game. The announcer told Lamb’s story right before the national anthem was played. Her entire family showed up: “aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas,” Riley added.
Birks said that “probably about 20 people” between two families showed up to the game for Lamb. A lot of teachers from Minetto also went to the game.
“I just remember crying. It was good and hard,” Birks said. “Hearing it out loud, it was hard. She had everybody cheering.”
Lamb’s love for unicorns has also hit the lacrosse team. She mentioned that she has “too many unicorns to count.” The team is always getting Aiyana little gifts, and almost all of them revolve around unicorns – a backpack, socks, a water bottle and even a hat.
The team had a small get-together with Lamb on Oct. 27, where they had her favorite foods, pizza and cookies. All of her favorite songs played in the background and, to Lamb’s delight, there was a dance party.
During the party, the team gave Lamb a couple of gifts, which included her “first actual American Girl Doll,” according to Birks, and her own Oswego State women’s lacrosse uniform.
“The lacrosse jersey, they all signed the back of it for her, so that’s hanging in her room,” Birks said. “(Her room), it’s all covered in Oswego State and unicorns.”
Lamb is looking forward to going to the games during the team’s 2020 season, which starts in March. The team’s biggest supporter also has her message ready for every game she goes to next season.
“I will say, ‘Hi. Go win that for me,’” Lamb said.
Senior Erica Doering mentioned that the team couldn’t wait to have her back either. Garrett added that the women’s lacrosse team, from now on, “is going to play for Aiyana.”
“As a team, we just have a different motivation than in past years,” Doering said. “This year, we’re doing it for someone or something that’s bigger and better than us.”
Lamb is also excited to get back into gymnastics and to try dance for the first time when this round of her chemotherapy is over. She said that when she grows up, she dreams of being a dance instructor.
Birks added that when Lamb did gymnastics before, the group she was with did a performance and even got an award after the show.
“I remember crying when she got her award after the show,” she said. “It’s nice to see her in a typical setting with typical kids doing things like that.”
Even though Lamb is in fifth grade, Birks said she still isn’t ready for one thing.
“We don’t want to talk about middle school yet,” she said. “I’m not ready for that.”
But before any of that happens, barring problems such as blood count, Lamb is getting ready to finish her last day of chemotherapy.
“As long as nothing pushes it off, Black Friday is her last day of chemo,” Birks said. “It’ll be Thanksgiving, then her last day of chemo.”
“It’s an early Christmas present,” Lamb said.