Liberty cheerleaders rally around teammate coping with loss mom who was also her best friend

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- Friday will be a night of mixed emotions at one metro high school.

The Liberty Blue Jays (1-0) will open a brand new football stadium, an all-new facility located on school grounds. As the football team prepares for visiting Belton (0-1) Liberty's cheerleaders rally around a member who has a burden to bear. That teenager says she's lost her best friend.

It was the worst week of her young life. Being part of Liberty High School's celebrated cheer squad used to be the biggest priority to Blue Jay cheer senior Samantha Butcher. That was, until mid-August -- just a week or so ago -- when her mother made a fateful trip to the doctor.

Jackie Butcher, 46, had felt sluggish for months. Samantha says her mom visited the doctor, complaining of lethargy and hallucinations. The family didn't imagine she'd be diagnosed with stage four liver cancer.

"That afternoon, my dad called me and told me that she only had a few days to live. That was really hard," Butcher told FOX 4 News.

Mrs. Butcher died on August 14th, just six days after she'd gotten the bad news. Emergency surgery wasn't enough to save her life.

"It's been really hard. She was my best friend. It's been hard to adjust and live life without her," Butcher said on Thursday.

Samantha, 17, says losing her mother was a terrible blow, but the Butchers say they're determined to find their way again. For Samantha, that means an atmosphere she can count on -- daily cheerleading practices -- where teammates who love her provide a strong support system.

The Liberty Cheerleading team has won an amazing eight consecutive Missouri state championships. Brenda Moats, the Blue Jays' cheer coach, says the secret has been pushing young women to perform to their peak. She says Samantha shows that kind of strength.

"I can't imagine how tough it must be to lose your mother two days before your senior year. She's a good kid. She's that girl you wouldn't know that anything had happened," Moats said.

"She had really held through this pretty well. I haven't seen her majorly struggle, but I know behind doors, she's probably struggling a little bit," teammate Elise Cifferi said.

Sam says she's planning a future in nursing. She also wants to continue cheering as she enters college. Butcher says she's feeling OK, and she wants the public to know her family is doing fine, given the circumstances. She says she's already planning her next destination -- college. That's the way mom would have wanted it.

"If I had to take one thing away from it, it's to appreciate the time you have with your loved ones. You never know when it could end," Butcher said.

Butcher says she'll be in uniform on Friday night at 7 p.m. when Liberty opens its new football stadium against Belton.