By Dillon Thomas

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – UCHealth, one of Colorado’s largest medical providers, reports a recent uptick in cancer diagnosis. The health system tells CBS4 the influx of detected cancer cases in recent months has exceeded their predictions and is largely correlated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

(credit: Getty Images)

Because many were fearful of the virus, were in quarantine or because doctor offices were closed, many regular screenings were either delayed or postponed. For all of those reasons, many people were not rescheduling necessary appointments or were simply avoiding getting checkups.

UCHealth reports a recent increase in cancer diagnosis as well as detecting cases at more advanced stages than before the pandemic.

In hope of encouraging those currently battling cancer, while also bringing more attention to getting routine checkups and vaccines, UCHealth teamed up with the Colorado State University basketball teams to support the cause.

(credit: CBS)

On Friday night the CSU Men’s Basketball Team, one of the best in the nation, will take the court in pink warmups. Underneath the warmups the players will be wearing jerseys that do not have names that match their legal names.

Instead, the last names on the back of the jerseys will be those of local cancer warriors who are going through the battles of their lives. The team, as well as the women’s basketball team at a later date, will be wearing the uniforms in support of cancer patients and cancer awareness.

One of those who will have her name sported on one of the jerseys is Jo Lynn Loewenkamp.

“It was one month almost to the day into the lockdown for the pandemic, and I found a lump in my breast,” Loewenkamp told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

Loewenkamp said, on top of being concerned about the pandemic in its early stages, she also simply didn’t want to face the potential of having cancer.

“I thought, this can’t be. We are in lockdown. Doctor’s offices aren’t even open. Calm down, forget about it will go away. But then it didn’t go away,” Loewenkamp said.

A checkup confirmed her greatest fear. She had stage three cancer.

“I was surprised, scared, shocked. I don’t have cancer anywhere in my family’s history,” Loewenkamp said.

(credit: CBS)

She’s gone through 16 chemotherapy sessions, a mastectomy and 33 doses of radiation thus far.

“The journey got very real, very scary, very fast,” Loewenkamp said.

Loewenkamp will be one of those being honored at the CSU men’s basketball game on Friday. She had the opportunity to virtually meet with the player who will be wearing her name during the game.

“Just knowing these guys are taking the time out and honoring cancer patients of all types of cancers, all ages, all stages of diagnosis,” Loewenkamp said. “It was really touching to hear them speak about what it meant to them as well, and how their lives have been touched personally by family and friends with cancer.”

Loewenkamp said she was looking forward to taking her family with her to the game. She said it will be her “final hoorah” before she isolates ahead of a coming surgery. If all goes well and the surgery continues as planned, Loewenkamp said this may be her final leap before starting a life cancer free.

“It is really fun to have a place to go, I haven’t had much to do over the past two years besides doctor’s appointments,” Loewenkamp said.

UCHealth encouraged residents to schedule or reschedule routine checkups and vaccines which they may have missed during the pandemic thus far. Loewenkamp credited UCHealth and their staff for helping make her survival and the “Bigger than Basketball” event a possibility.

Dillon Thomas