Nats recognize Honorary Bat Girl

Green, a breast cancer survivor, has been a Washington fan since the beginning

WASHINGTON -- Melissa Green has been a Nationals fan since the beginning, attending one of the team's first few home games in Washington back at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in 2005.

Green was honored Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park as the winner of the club's Honorary Bat Girl contest, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and have demonstrated a commitment to battling the disease. Green, who was diagnosed in 2014, just celebrated her two-year anniversary of being cancer-free on April 28.

"It's a great way to recognize not just survivors, but people who are living with breast cancer, too," Green said. "I just think this is a great way for Major League Baseball, for national organizations, to recognize that there is light at the end of the tunnel when you're diagnosed. It's a journey for sure, but there's an end."

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Being at Nationals Park on Sunday was a nod to Green's journey, but it was also special because it was Mother's Day, and her mom was instrumental in helping her battle the disease. Green's mother is also a breast cancer survivor who celebrated her ninth year being cancer-free in April. Green's mother would drive three hours each way from Elberon, Va., to be there for each of her 16 chemotherapy treatments and each of her surgeries.

"To be here on Mother's Day for me," Green said, pausing to fight back tears, "I'm honoring her, too, by being here. Having that example of how to get through something that, it's the crappiest thing most people are ever going to have happen to them. To be able to spend as much time as she did with me was amazing and really helped me through my journey."

Green admitted she was nervous to throw out the first pitch, wanting to avoid throwing poorly and being turned into a meme. She succeeded in avoiding both as she fired the ball to Wilmer Difo.

Although Green's mother could not make it for the game, Green was joined by her oldest niece for the first part of Sunday's split doubleheader with the Phillies. And Green offered some advice to women currently fighting the disease.

"The key is everybody's journey is different," Green said. "Don't diagnose yourself. My journey was completely different than my mother's. Don't self-diagnose and trust your instincts, you're your own best health advocate, so if you're not happy with the diagnosis of the doctor, go see somebody else. Get a second opinion, get a third opinion until you're comfortable. You really have to advocate for yourself."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.