CRESTVIEW — Against the backdrop of a Crestview High School gym decorated in pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, Kathy Combest raised her hands in victory before the first point was played in Monday’s volleyball match between Crestview and visiting Freeport. The home Crestview Bulldogs would go on to beat the visiting Freeport Bulldogs in straight sets, but volleyball took a backseat to a celebration of life.


CRESTVIEW — Against the backdrop of a Crestview High School gym decorated in pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, Kathy Combest raised her hands in victory before the first point was played in Monday’s volleyball match between Crestview and visiting Freeport.



The home Crestview Bulldogs would go on to beat the visiting Freeport Bulldogs in straight sets, but volleyball took a backseat to a celebration of life.



Combest has been breast cancer-free for five years. She wanted to celebrate her milestone and that of other women who have fought and won the battle with the deadly disease while honoring women who have breast cancer or have died from it.



Combest was joined in her celebration by her family, friends from across the Baker and Crestview communities, and her surgeon, Dr. Sandra Hanson of Fort Walton Beach. Holt Volunteer Fire Department members also were on hand to sell T-shirts with the words, “strength, courage and perseverance” on the back to help raise money to fight breast cancer.



“That fight right there (against breast cancer) is tough,” she said. For me to be able to come back and to still do what I love to do — coach — is a blessing for me.



It was no accident that Freeport was Monday’s opponent. Combest was coaching at Baker when she was diagnosed with cancer. She said on her team’s first trip to Freeport after she was told she had the disease Freeport coach Tina Knight and her team supported her with flowers and T-shirts



“Her (Knight’s) whole team was just devastated by what I was having to go through and it was so supportive,” Combest said. “I wanted her to be here for my five years because she was her for my beginning (of the battle with cancer).”



Hanson said she was honored that Combest had chosen her Breast Cancer Charity Fund to receive the money raised from the night’s T-shirt sales and donations.



She said today’s technology is making breast cancer more and more curable — but that cure comes with a price.



Scotty Chestnut of the Holt Volunteer Fire Department said the department members were happy to honor Combest for all of her years teaching and coaching at Baker before moving to coach at Crestview.



“You had generations that she coached and the lives that she touched throughout the (Baker) community, and there is no way to really put it into words,” he said. “She influenced girls in the right way and changed their lives.



“And now she’s over here at Crestview, and I believe she will do the same thing. It’s an honor to us to be able to help her in the cause (of fighting breast cancer).”



Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at randyd@crestviewbulletin.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.