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SNC softball coach Jo Ann Krueger battles back from breast cancer

Krueger went through treatment and surgery in the past year
Published: Apr. 18, 2021 at 9:30 PM CDT
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - Jo Ann Krueger is a staple at St. Norbert College. She’s been the softball coach for 24 years. Not to mention, she is also the equipment manager for the athletic department. On July 2nd of 2020, Coach K was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, sending her into the fight for her life. However, if there’s one thing Jo Ann hates, it’s losing, and she’s determined to knock cancer out of the park.

“I am not a good loser so if you are going to compete you want to win,” Krueger said. “So I teach my girls you have to fight and that’s what I am doing now with my battle with cancer is showing them how to fight.”

Fighting is in Jo Ann’s blood. It’s what she’s preached to her players for years. And she knew this fight would not be easy.

“I was taking a shower and I was doing my self check,” Krueger said. “I was pretty good at doing that and I felt something. So I immediately called and they got me in within two days for the mammogram and during that they knew it looked suspicious and they were preparing me that it was something.”

Surrounded by her loving family, Krueger started chemo four weeks later. Treatments lasted a total of 16 weeks. And in December, she had surgery before beginning radiation this past February.

“Like when you wake up in the morning and you’re like, ‘I don’t want to go to practice today. We’ve had such a long week.’” said SNC senior Ellie Olsen. “No, I better get my butt to practice and I better work extra hard because Coach K is going through something a lot worse than us going through practice or running or sprints. She’s battling and we have to battle too.”

“I’m going to beat it,” Krueger said. “I’m going to win this battle. It’s not going to get me down and it hasn’t.”

That might be the understatement of the year. Krueger was giving softball lessons just two weeks after having surgery.

“You would literally have to tie her down to keep her from the softball field,” Olsen said. “Even with this COVID thing, it almost - I don’t want to say it was a blessing because it’s not, but - it helped me worry about myself and not have to worry about coming here and working with the football team and doing things I usually do,” Krueger said.

Jo Ann loves taking care of people. But it’s her family taking care of her now. Whether it’s the family at the Mel Nicks Sports Complex, or the one she goes home to every night. One thing is visible. Jo Ann is surrounded by those who love her.

“It’s comforting knowing just how many people support her and love her,” Olsen said. “When we made these shirts, we sold an unreal amount of shirts. Everyone that goes here loves her. Everyone here loves her. Opposing coaches love her. Players love her. Everybody’s families love her. Everybody loves Coach K. She always preaches what a family we are and before any of this happened. She always talked to us about how to teach softball but teaches us more about life. That’s what you learn from Coach K and this just proves it true. She’s the toughest woman I’ve ever met.”

“I’ve just been blessed to have the energy and passion for this game,” Krueger said.

Coach K believes that her strength comes from the loss of her mother who passed away at 49 due to colon cancer.

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