Nadya Gibson felt more than a victory when the Cabrini women’s basketball team defeated Marywood 80-35 on Feb. 4. The game also featured their second annual Layups for Lupus game, with the Nerney Pavilion turning purple and raising awareness for a disease that impacts Gibson’s life daily.
Gibson is a 2021 graduate of Cabrini with a B.S. in marketing and minor in sports management. She’s also the former manager for the women’s basketball team and still-active member of the community.
When she’s not serving as the head coach of Cabrini’s dance team, Gibson can always be seen walking around Dixon Center with a smile on her face.
In spring of Gibson’s freshman year, she made it onto Cabrini’s dance team. She competed on the dance team until her junior year, when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted team competitions.
During her sophomore year she became the manager of Cabrini’s women’s basketball team and managed them through the rest of her college career.
She graduated in May 2021 as the Denise Edwards Spirit Award winner for her class.
Throughout her senior year, Gibson and her peers noticed something was off with her health. She was ill a lot and doctors were unable to find a diagnosis.
In September 2021, she finally got her answer.
Gibson was diagnosed with Systemic Lupuserythematosus, the most common type of Lupus. SLE is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and tissue damage to several body systems. Some of the most common symptoms are fatigue, joint pain, and headaches, depending on the system being impacted.
This diagnosis was a shock to the Cabrini community, and Gibson was in a tough position while dealing with such a serious disease.
“During this time, it was kind of rough,” said Gibson. “I was trying to graduate, balance extracurriculars, find a job, and everything else. It was a lot of not knowing what was going on. Just always sick, always tired, not feeling like myself.”
But Gibson maintained her busy schedule and never let her disease get in her way.
“I didn’t change who I was or what I was doing,” said Gibson. “Just always going to basketball practice, always going to class doing what I had to do.”
While in the moment the news was shocking, Gibson found peace in her diagnosis through the support of her peers.
“Getting that diagnosis, I think it was a lot of unanswered questions finally answered,” said Gibson. “Everyone was super supportive and happy that I got my diagnosis and kind of just a very big deep breath. A breath of fresh air, if you will.”
Layups for Lupus is born
Because of her three-year service to the team, women’s basketball players decided to honor Nadya with an event to raise money for her treatment. Abbi Paolini, junior education major, approached head coach Kate Pearson and pitched the concept that became Layups of Lupus.
“Abbi came up to coach Pearson and me and was like, ‘I think we should do this game to honor you,'” said Gibson. “‘You’ve went through a lot and you’ve done so much for us. I think it’s time for us to give back to you.’ This little idea all sparked from one diagnosis.”
The inaugural Layups for Lupus was held Jan. 22, 2022 when the Cavaliers hosted Marywood. Players wore purple socks and arm bands, and the Nerney Pavilion was filled with purple balloons and ribbons.
“Last year we did it as an event to raise awareness and raise some money,” said Pearson. “Some of that last year was donation specifically to help Nadya with some of her treatments … now, her mission is more on raising awareness.”
After the success of year one, it was a given that Layups for Lupus would return in 2023. The team decided once again to hold the event during their game against Marywood, and this year it coincided with alumni day.
“I’m all about these player-led initiatives,” said Pearson. “Especially when we have alums that are tied in, it all came together as a great way to celebrate our alums and promote this cause.”
When the game finally tipped off, it all came full circle as Abby Paolini, the event’s organizer, scored 13 of the Cavaliers’ first 15 points. The team’s massive victory was the cherry on top of a great event.
What the future holds
One year after her initial diagnosis with SLE, Gibson had a follow-up appointment where she got a second diagnosis. She has Lupus Nephritis, Lupus of the kidneys. Once again, she’s not letting this stop her from doing what she loves.
“I was already coaching [the dance team] when I got my second diagnosis,” said Gibson. “So again, more tired, more doctor’s visits, stuff like that. It’s pretty crazy but I am just trying to balance it all.”
Gibson’s goal is to have Layups for Lupus continue to be an annual event and keep spreading awareness through her platform at Cabrini.
“There’s no cure for Lupus,” said Gibson. “So, I want to just be a big help in raising funds and raising awareness, especially in the Philadelphia community … I want to put Cabrini’s name behind that because I feel like Cabrini is a big family no matter where you are, what sport you play, what class you’re in … I think Cabrini is just a place that holds onto things that, little or big, can make a big impact on the community.”