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Athlete Copes with Sister’s Death

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Cosper Siblings

Senior guard Devin Cosper (left) lost her older sister, (right) Sierra Cosper, to Multiple Sclerosis on Nov. 9, 2016.

 

 

It was Nov. 9, 2016, and decisions needed to be made. She could either drive through the dark to Coffeyville, Kansas, to say goodbye to her sister, or wait until morning to receive a call saying her sister died.

Devin Cosper’s sister was sick, and she wanted one last chance to say goodbye, but it was too late.

Around 2:30 a.m., while Devin was driving home, her father called, and the only thing exchanged was silence.

 

Sierra

Devin, a guard for the Arkansas women’s basketball team, has had a long history of basketball. She started playing at the age of 5 and quickly grew to love the sport. Her father, Eddie Cosper, played college basketball at Southwest College in Winfield, Kansas.

Devin talked to NCAA Division I schools such as Oklahoma State University, Wichita State University and the University of Kansas butchose to play her first year of collegiate basketball at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.

She chose to be close to home for her first year of college because of her older sister, Sierra.

It was during her freshman year of college that Devin noticed her sister was becoming incredibly ill.

She recalls the moment she knew her sister was very sick, Devin said.

“There was one Christmas where it hit me that she wasn’t going to come back from this,” Devin said. “I got her some pajamas, and she couldn’t open the package. She was shaking and couldn’t do it anymore.”

When Sierra Cosper was just 25, she was officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is a condition in which the protective covering of nerves are eaten away by the immune system.

Common symptoms of MS include trouble walking, dizziness, tremors or impaired thinking, such as poor focus, lack of concentration and speech loss. Speech problems occur in approximately 25-40 percent of all people dealing with MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Depression is another common symptom among people living with MS.

Sierra was bedridden and unable to walk or talk for three years. Devin said her sister was also resisting treatment because of how uncomfortable it was on her body.

“They put her body in this oxygen tank, and it was enclosed,” Devin said. “That’s supposed to heal your body faster. She was doing that because she had bedsores. The doctor asked if she liked coming there, and she shook her head no.”

Devin said the disease took over her sister’s body very quickly, and by the time she realized how sick she was, it was too difficult to watch.

“I knew another man who had it in Coffeyville and he is just fine,” Devin said. “He has had it for years. I always think, ‘Why is it that he can be fine but she couldn’t?’ She had it for roughly 12 years.”

Although it was difficult to see her sister in pain, Devin said she and her sister were not very close in terms of age or relationship. Sierra was 18 years older than Devin, and though they lived in the same city while Devin was in high school, Sierra had two kids to care for, Tajahn and Tariq, now ages 17 and 14 respectively.

Devin said the most difficult part of watching as her sister became ill was how difficult it was for Sierra to raise her children.
“I wish they could have had a relationship with their mother,” Devin said. “Watch them play sports and support them. To be out in public with them. I know it hurts them because she’s not there, but I think they’re doing good.”

 

Nov. 9, 2016

It was early in the morning when she FaceTimed her nephew Tajahn to see how his mom was doing.

“I told him to put her up to the phone,” Devin said. “I’m trying to assess what’s happening. It was 10 p.m., and my mom told me to come home. We had a game the next day, but I wasn’t playing because I was injured.”

Time went on, and Devin headed to Coffeyville around 2:30 a.m. to see her sister. She left her roommates a note saying where she went and then she left. She arrived around 6 a.m., but, by that time, her sister had already died at 2 a.m.

“I told my dad not to let people take her away until I got to see her,” Devin said. “I went into her room and looked at her. I was numb, and I’m probably still a little numb.”

Although she just lost her sister, Devin said it was reassuring to know her sister was no longer in any pain.

“It was relieving because she was in pain,” Devin said. “She wasn’t who she wanted to be, and she wasn’t what we wanted her to be during those 12 years.”

Her time at the UofA

After her freshman year at Coffeyville Community College, the former Junior College First-Team All-American transferred to the UofA, prior to the loss of her sister.

She said she chose Arkansas because it felt like home. In her sophomore campaign, Devin played in all 30 games, starting in 25. She averaged 26.4 minutes, 9.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

Last year, during her junior season, Devin missed six weeks with a concussion. The inability to play the sport she loved and the loss of her sister took a toll on her.

“Last year was the worst year of my life,” Devin said. “Basketball was supposed to be my outlet and get away from all the struggles of my life, but basketball was so tough for me. I was injured and out of shape. I was depressed.”

 

A Shoulder to Lean On

Although Devin said times were tough she had teammates help her get through this hard time, especially junior guard, Bailey Zimmerman.

During Zimmerman’s freshman year at the UofA, her dad passed away, and she recalls the support Devin provided before Devin herself, would lose a family member.

“It was extremely hard for me because I knew my father was never going to ever watch me play as a lady Razorback,” Zimmerman said. “Devin was very comforting to me during this time. She was always there for me and understood why I was so sad during this difficult time.”

Not only did Devin help Zimmerman heal, but they also created a friendship that enabled them to rely on each other in times of adversity.

“You will never understand how hard life is until you lose someone you loved greatly,” Zimmerman said. “This has definitely made Devin and I stronger individuals but also great teammates.”

Devin, now in her last season at the UofA, continues to dedicate each game to her sister and her nephews.

Devin said her nephews are doing well and are always able to reach out to Devin at any time.

“They are my boys,” Devin said. “I do look at them like brothers because we are close in age. They are the brothers I never had.”

As for Devin, she said she knows her sister finally gets to watch her play.

“She didn’t get to see me play that much, but I’m just going to play for her,” Devin said. “Hopefully she can put some baskets in for me. She can be my sixth man. I just want her to be proud of me.”

 

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