Wednesday, April 13, 2016

For The Stories

“Cancer begins and ends with people. In the midst of scientific abstraction, it is sometimes possible to forget this one basic fact….” – June Goodfield

Cancer begins and ends with people. I can’t imagine a phrase that Relay For Life embodies more. Throughout four years of college, my experience at UVA has been defined by cancer, but perhaps it is more apt to say that it has been defined by the people that cancer has brought into my life, namely those of Relay For Life at UVA.


My story begins the exact same way each time I tell it: my life changed forever in a Marriot in Georgetown. That November afternoon, my parents sat me down to tell me my mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. So when I joined Relay For Life in the spring of 2013, all I knew was that my mom was sick, and because I lacked a medical degree and really any medical knowledge beyond the idea that you can get rid of a cold with lots of fluids and rest, there was nothing I could do. But I needed a tangible way to fight something that I could not see and honestly did not totally understand.


Cancer is hard to grasp. From the moment of diagnosis to the treatments, it seems impossible to understand, and for the most part, often does not feel we know much about it. We know its hard to fight and even harder to beat, but does the common person, the people who are most likely affected by this disease, do they know how it spreads? Why it emerges? How exactly we fight it? Not truly. I was that person. I was a scared 18 year old who was 9 hours away from home and thought she was losing her best friend in the world.


But as scary as cancer is, as much as it has changed my life, not all the changes cancer has made have been bad ones. After bouncing around from major to major I finally found my calling: nursing. I joined an organization that would give me some of my best friends and greatest leadership opportunities, and would ultimately characterize my entire UVA experience. It gave me a support system of immeasurably talented and passionate people, who understood what I was experiencing.


In addition to my work with Relay, I spent this year studying the language we use to discuss cancer. I talked to survivors, caregivers, doctors, nurses, and volunteers about their experiences and their stories. Each day, I heard about the incredible strength, positivity, and bravery that fighting cancer requires. Everyone I have met, both through my research and through Relay, has an unbelievable story of courage and adversity that fully characterizes the life-affirming affect cancer has on people’s lives.

So I relay for those stories. I relay for the stories of my family and friends, for those stories that inspire everyone at Relay For Life at UVA to relay and work as hard as they do each day. I relay for the people I have never met, never heard of, and will never know who have been touched by cancer. I relay to see the end of cancer in my lifetime. I relay so my children never have to hear those words “your mother has cancer”. I relay for the life-affirmation that comes out of this terrible diagnosis.

I relay for life, past, present, and future.


This Friday, Relay For Life at UVA will celebrate survivors, remember those taken too soon, and fight back against this disease that has influenced each of our stories in a unique way. From 6PM on Friday to 6AM on Saturday morning, we will be out at Carr’s Hill Field to symbolize that cancer never sleeps and to revere those who fight each and every day.

12 hours of people, brought together by cancer from beginning to end.

So here’s to you, Mom. I love you.

RelayLove,


Event Co-Chair

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Why I Run

Throwback to sophomore year high school track when I was literally the slowest runner on my team. Despite finishing the season and all-in-all having a good time hanging out with friends, I had every intention of that being the end of my running career and saving the sport for simply staying in shape. Flash forward almost four years to my second year of college and I had just finished my first (and what I had assumed would be last) half-marathon. And now, here we are, today, a little over a year later, and I’m in the process of preparing for my second of three races in the course of a month. You may be asking (and often I find myself asking), what happened? Why running? Well, ask me that about 9 miles into any run and often I will not have the best answer. But as soon as I cross that finish line and am so welcomed by the running community, all of the reasons come flooding back.


My personal journey with cancer begins long before I came into existence. My grandmother passed away from cancer when my mom was only 12. Hearing that even as I write this gives me goosebumps - I barely go 48 hours without a phone call to my mom. However, things entered a whole new level of “real” the summer of 2011 when my dad’s oldest brother, Dan, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Though the journey was not easy, that November we got the news he was in remission. While I was grateful that our immediate family had been blessed by this wonderful news, I struggled through the rest of high school as I watched a classmate, family friends, and the parents of teammates battle cancer - some have great survival stories but still far too many are unable to share their story today.

And just as it seems life can do, cancer appeared to follow me to college. First year first semester, I got the phone call one day while studying in Clark that Dan has been diagnosed with cancer again; this time colon cancer. Back in the battle field yet again. Being 3 hours away from my immediate family and over 10 hours away from my extended family, I felt so alone and helpless. I felt as though Dan and the rest of my family were facing a giant monster that was impossible to be defeated - attack one weakness and it can grow back three times stronger somewhere else.

However, during the following summer a series of events changed my perspective. First: on July 18th, 2014, I received the most joyful email: the all-clear. We - he - had in fact done it again. The monster had been defeated. However, I knew the story couldn’t stop there. While I was overjoyed that the Wnorowski family had defeated cancer, I realized I knew far too many people that were still in the midst of the fight. That fall semester I got the wonderful privilege to become a more integral part of Relay For Life at UVA.  The more active I become, the more my peers inspired and motivated me to constantly do and push myself more; to somehow be a part of the movement that wasn’t backing down to the monster.

That fall, I signed up for the  Anthem Richmond Half-Marathon as a way to honor Dan, who has run 30+ marathons AND is officially an IronMan x2 (crazy I know!). I viewed it as a way to grow closer to him while also raising awareness of cancer among my close friends and family. I had every intention to finish that race, be thrilled with the fact that I had completed a half-marathon, do some fundraising through some sponsorships, grow a step closer to Dan, and then go back to my weekly (maybe monthly) 2 mile runs. But the feelings of race day are something incredible, especially with the Richmond Half-Marathon.


You begin the night before by going to the running expo where there are runners, families, friends, and businesses from throughout the East Coast. All so excited to be there and upon finding out this is your first race, spouting out more race-day advice and words of encouragement than you can find on Tumblr. Then the next morning, you begin by waking up at 5 a.m. and making the early morning drive to the city where you park and begin the walk to the start. Runners everywhere. The nerves hit - so many incredibly physically fit people. I can’t do this. What if I come in last? What if my time is awful? Oh this is a bad idea. But soon enough, you’re shuffled into your time group by the most peppy announcer who knows more One Direction lyrics than the average teenage girl and before you even have time to re-tie your shoes, the gun has gone off and you’re off.

Each mile comes and goes, and with each stretch of the road there are crowds of people cheering you on. Supportive signs including: “13.1... you’re only half crazy!” and “Run like Ryan Gosling is at the end with a puppy!” Dogs, children, Gatorade, beer, and high-fives make each mile come and go until before you know it you have reached the 13 mile sign and are on the final downhill stretch and then wa-la: you’re done! The finish is filled with people taking pictures, handing out medals, blankets, food, water, you name it. Random runners walk up and congratulate you. You find your best friend and family who embrace you with the best hugs despite your slightly sweaty stench. The community is something so unique and amazing, and I had this epiphany moment. This is the community Relay For Life creates.


It is a world-wide organization whose main goal and mission is to be a support system for the individuals and families battling cancer each and every day. Whether that means handing out a meal and a place to stay at the Hope Lodge after a long race or offering a supportive shoulder right when things seem to be the toughest. All of us are at different spots in the race.  Some people are the runners - those battling cancer and undergoing various treatments. Others are the families - waiting anxiously to see moms, dads, brothers, and sisters run every step of the way and willing to give whatever it takes to be as supportive as possible. And others are the volunteers - those who help set up or take down - doing whatever small things we can to help those runners finish. But we all come together for single, common goal - to see our beloved runners finish a race that we all dream will soon never have to be run - the race against cancer!

And so I have kept running. It serves as a reminder of the wonderful community of Relay For Life that I belong to and my integral role in being a volunteer to see patients cross the finish line. Since that first half in the fall of 2014, I have ran another half, a 10-miler, and have a 10K and third half in the next two weeks. The more I run, I have found there are days when the road is literally more uphill than I am prepared for, so I have developed a way to keep myself motivated and to remind myself how blessed I am to be able to be a part of this movement. Each race day, I write down on my arm the number of miles followed by the name of a friend or family member who is battling or has battled cancer. As someone who has a strong faith, I begin each mile with a Hail Mary followed by a special intention for that person and to remind myself that each step I take is reflective of the bigger picture that Relay is taking towards a future with no cancer.

So as I approach a 10K this Saturday, I started brainstorming who I will be running for:
Kilo 1 - I Relay for all of those who have already fought the fight against cancer - both those alive today to tell about it and those whose stories remain told by their loved one.
Kilo 2 - I Relay in honor of  Dan Wnorowski - the reason I found two amazing communities of running and Relay For Life.
Kilo 3 - I Relay in memory of Maria Hirst - the mother of my mom who I never met, but judging by her daughter, can tell she was an incredible person.
Kilo 4 - I Relay in honor of Maria Davalos Oesterle, my mother’s sister who has battled breast cancer.
Kilo 5 - I Relay in memory of Polly Zeiger - an amazing mother and teacher who affected more lives than she’ll ever know
Kilo 6 - I Relay in honor of Dr. Erin Champagne - as amazing veterinarian who has taught me incredible both academic and life lessons  
Kilo 7 - I Relay in honor of Julie Snyder - a good friend’s mother who helped raise me into the person I am today
Kilo 8 - I Relay in honor of Charlie Humphreys - who is one of the strongest kids I know and just so happened to defeat brain cancer
Kilo 9 - I Relay in memory of Kendall Bayne - an amazing student who has been an inspiration to so many people
Kilo 10 - I Relay in honor of a future in which my children will not face a world in which the word cancer can bring so much heartbreak.


And so I run to see a world in which the word cancer is something of the past. But until that moment, I’ll keep fundraising and keep attending Relay For Life moments and love every moment of being part of such a strong community. Donate to my personal page. Join our team. Start to learn more. Most importantly, similar to what Nike says, Just do something.

RelayLove,


Member Publicity Committee

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Let's Make History

Cancer. Before I go on, stop and think about what this word means for you. You might be thinking about a loved one you’ve lost because of this terrible disease. You might be thinking about the hours you or a loved one has had to spend in the hospital because of this disease. It’s also possible that cancer hasn’t played a huge role in your life, and if that is the case don’t stop reading now. No matter what the case is, cancer is something that has become incredibly prominent and invasive in our world. It is so easy to ignore the hard things, but there is no time for that. It’s time to fight cancer and make history.

This year about 564,800 Americans are expected to die of cancer—more than 1,500 people a day. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, exceeded only by heart disease. One of every four deaths in the U.S. is from cancer. Since 1990, there have been approximately 5 million cancer deaths.  These numbers are numbers that I never want to see again. These numbers became more than just numbers to me a few years ago when I lost Papa to cancer.


My parents had told me that Papa was sick and things were getting pretty bad. I didn’t really want to believe them, but I had to. For the first time I was forced to think about the impact that cancer had in my family’s life. I sat with Papa for some of his last hours, but he never showed a sign of weakness. Papa’s faith and love kept him strong through the end.


Papa was a man who was full of energy, love, and life. Nothing ever seemed to bother him and he was always a calming presence wherever he was. He is someone that I admire greatly and he is someone that is loved by so many people. Papa always took the time to make you feel loved and known by him. He was a man who took the time to have great conversations with you and give you a nice big hug. He was the biggest Syracuse fan I know and I think he is who left me with some mixed feelings after the Wahoo loss versus Cuse on Sunday. He also loved history more than anyone I know. One of my favorite memories with Papa was his trip to Virginia to chaperone my class’ field trip to Jamestown. He was so interested and intrigued by everything we saw. His love for history has made me think of what kind of history we can make.


Relay For Life has given me the opportunity to contribute to something urgent, something important, and something bigger than myself. We have the opportunity to make history. Relay For Life has grown into a nationwide event raising nearly $5 billion to save lives from cancer. In a world where we are constantly innovating and discovering, I have hope that we will see the end of cancer and history will be made.

I Relay for Papa, for Mrs. Gerkin, and for all of those who are impacted by cancer. This disease has an impact that is far greater than anyone would ever want it to be. Join me and let’s make history.

RelayLove,


Greek Recruitment Committee



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Shoutout: Miller & Minh

Hey Relay-ers! I am honored to announce that this week's shoutout goes to the new Relay For Life Co-Chairs for the 2016-2017 school year: Miller Sisson and Minh Bui! Biggest congrats to these two wonderful people & be sure to say hello if you see them!

Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Year/Major: 3rd year, Human Biology
Position on Relay: Greek Recruitment Chair
Why I Relay: I Relay to fight back against cancer. I have had two grandparents with cancer, and so I Relay to both honor them and to hopefully prevent others from going through what they did. I also Relay for my future career. I want to be an oncologist, and my dream is to be able to say to folks: "You have cancer, but we can do something about this. We can cure your disease." I believe the work that Relay and the ACS are doing now makes this dream closer and closer to becoming a reality.
Why I’m Excited For Relay: I go to bed really early most days, but I can't think of a more exciting reason to pull an all-nighter. Seeing so many folks at UVA come together to fight for the same goal is really powerful. And the free food. 
Did you know… That I have a twin sister? She's a student at Furman University in South Carolina. She's a lot cooler than I am, but I'm one minute older so it all evens out, right? I have two younger brothers too, and they are pretty cool in their own right. 
Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Chocolate. It's not even close.


Hometown: Chantilly, VA
Year/Major: 3rd Year, Sociology
Position on Relay: Entertainment Chair
Why I Relay: For my Aunt
Why I'm Excited for Relay: Because Luminaria is one of the best hours of my year, and that we'll be playing Hunger Hungry Hippos - Human Edition
Did you know: I turned my parents into cake ball creating sweatshop workers in high school and made them help me make 1,400 cake balls to sell for Relay. No shame.
Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Anything with salted caramel!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

For The Irishman

When cancer first affected my life, I was too young to realize it. I was three years old when my Grandpa Bob passed away from lung cancer at a relatively young age. I was three years old when I lost the person who had taught me to play the piano, who was the reason I knew what the Yankees were, and who had the exact same Irish eyes as I have. I was three years old when I lost the person who was supposed to see my sister and I grow up, who was supposed to take care of my grandmother in her old age, and who was supposed to tell me all about my Irish descendants. But I was just three years old, and I had no idea.

It was years later, when I found my Mom crying downstairs, that I learned about the incredible man I had lost. She had found tapes of my Grandpa Bob’s voice, and we listened and cried for hours while she told me all about the person he had been. I had never seen my mother cry before. That was the first time that I truly understood what cancer could take away.

Since then, I have been confronted by cancer in so many ways. I don’t remember my Grandpa Bob’s funeral, but I vividly remember the funerals of two friends’ fathers who passed away from cancer. And I remember how much cancer affected their lives and the lives of those who loved them. I remember the day my Dad sat me down and told me that his own father, Grandpa Lind, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer. I remember visiting my grandparents that same year and seeing for myself the effect that intense cancer treatment had on my grandfather. I remember eating hot dogs with him because it was the only food he could still taste. I remember hugging him harder every time I said goodbye, in fear of it being my last. I remember his smile and his conviction, and I remember the day that the doctors finally told him he was in remission. And lastly, I remember the day the cancer came back.

I remember, and so I Relay.

I Relay in memory of my Grandpa Bob, in celebration of my Meme’s triumph in her battle against non-hodgkins lymphoma (a cancer of the lymphatic system), in honor of my Grandpa Lind, and in hope of a cancer-less future. I Relay for missed times, for missed relationships, for missed hugs and for missed kisses. I Relay for all of my friends who have lost a parent or loved one to this awful disease.

I Relay in the hope of a future in which no one has to say or hear the words, “I have cancer”.

Cancer is an epidemic. This year alone there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cases diagnosed and nearly 600,000 deaths in the US. Right behind heart disease, cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States. We cannot afford to stand by; we cannot afford to lose the fight. This is not an individual battle, it is a global movement, and we can all contribute. Join a Relay For Life team. Donate. Visit the American Cancer Page to learn more. Just don't be a passerby - step up and do something.

RelayLove,


Fundraising Co-Chair

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

#FinishtheFight

Cancer is not casual. Ask any one of your friends and the overwhelming majority of them can name someone they know whom this monster of a disease has affected. When I arrived at the University of Virginia I was very *extremely* eager to get involved and Relay For Life seemed like an obvious choice. Their mission to celebrate survivors, to remember those we have lost, and to fight back through our fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society spoke to me.

Young, eager Allison at her first Relay For Life Event
At that point I could name one family member that had been affected by breast cancer, my great-aunt Nena. I still remember bursting into tears at a second grade assembly while our headmistress addressed us. That was the first time I had to feel the heartache of losing someone I loved because of a disease that seemed so out of my control or anyone’s for that matter. That experience was impetus enough for me to join this organization. Over the next couple of years I heard countless stories of why people relay. Tearfully, I listened as friends share their stories of acting as a caregiver to their mother, saying good-bye to their sister, fighting alongside their beloved coach, and so many more. These were such powerful stories and I thought that my one story was not enough. I loved my great aunt, but my memories with her were so few as I was so young. I am blessed to say that my family members are alive and well. However several weeks ago I was talking with a friend over drinks and he shared with me that he had had skin cancer. The comment was so nonchalant that it struck me. How had I not known this about one of my best friends? Surprisingly, this was not the first time this type of interaction had happened to me. Another friend of mine had similarly shared her story during happy hour as if it was regular conversation. Moreover this last weekend I was having lunch with my grandparents and my mom told my grandfather that he had to have a growth on his forehead checked out. She then told me that he had had a cancerous cell removed in the past.

Beyond these few stories, there are plenty more that go untold. I realized that I relay for them and that my reason for relaying is worthy. Thanks to the American Cancer Society, life saving research has been made possible so that the people I love most have been able to stay in my life. The American Cancer Society dedicates itself to research, education, advocacy, and service. Every dollar raised is a glimmer of hope that someone can share their story over a beer that they beat cancer, and hopefully one day there will be no stories to tell because we will see a world without cancer. We’ve certainly come along way thanks to the amazing work of researchers, physicians, nurses and all those committed to finishing the fight. Just look at our very own UVA researchers, Dr. Hui Li, PhD and Kate Adelstein, a nurse pursuing her PhD, who will be sharing their efforts at Relay For Life at UVA’s Flash Seminar this Friday.

We all play a role in ensuring a future without cancer. It is a privilege and an honor to have work alongside so many amazing people over the last four years doing my part by fundraising with Relay For Life for the American Cancer Society. No story is unworthy, no donation is too small. Do your part so that we can #FinishtheFight!


RelayLove,


 Co-Chair of Greek Recruitment 


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Missing Teddy Grahams


Everything about my Grapea can be summarized by the fact that he let me (and his 4 other grandkids) call him Grapea, which was my botched pronunciation of “Grandpa,” and didn’t even complain when it was eventually shortened to “Grape.” My Grapea was my hero. He spent weeks at hunting camp every fall, crafted flawless appetizer platters, fought in the Bay of Pigs, was the most accomplished sewer I’ve ever met, and had long, intricate scavenger hunts ready for me for me every Sunday after Mass. He was the most laidback, carefree, and fun-loving Republican I’ve ever met. My sophomore year of high school, my mom, uncle, and Mimi organized a get-together for his 70th birthday, and we all flew up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the whitest town in America. We went out to dinner, went to the spa, took pictures with old boats, and had that talk. My seven-foot tall, unbeatable, deer-hunting grandpa was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
 
 
Every summer, that entire side of my family went on a beach trip. Grapea would book the house that would sleep 11 people months in advance and craft a menu that featured breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and (his favorite) dessert for seven nights. The summer I turned 12, I was deemed organized enough to be his successor, and I took over the menu writing and invariably assigned dessert to Mimi and Grapea every night. True to form, Grapea scouted out a new ice cream place (not too hard in New England summer, the land of endless ice cream) for every night. Sometimes, my sister, cousin, and I ended up with a late night visitor who carried a gallon of ice cream he had hidden from the rest of the family and four spoons, and we would talk for hours. The year after he was diagnosed, we waited up for our Grapea and our gallon, but it never came: he had gone to sleep at 7 pm after fighting off sleep for hours. The prostate cancer had advanced to his pancreas and was raging through his body.
 

When I was 8 or 9, I was eating Teddy Grahams and Grapea grabbed some but promptly spit them out and announced that I had terrible taste because those were the grossest things he’d ever eaten. I would jokingly leave packages of Teddy Grahams around the house for him to find, and every Christmas since then, we both sent each other a box of Teddy Grahams (although his box stayed in the cupboard of their house in Andover until my family visited them and he shuddered as I ate them.) My real present was always beautifully wrapped and labelled in my Mimi’s flawless cursive, and his box, which he felt the need to wrap with seven layers of duct tape and address in mile-high stick letters, arrived alongside it, sometimes with “poison” or “hazardous materials” stickers on it, just to freak out the Post Office.
 
This past Christmas was the first year I didn’t eat Teddy Grahams.
 
The cancer had become systemic, and Grapea was been living in a hospice and unable to recognize his family, who had been holding vigil at his bedside.
 
 
Grapea was the most supportive, reasonable person I know. When my mom would yell at me for skipping Chemistry, he rationally asked if I was doing the work anyway, and she immediately calmed down. When my grandma would flip out because the younger cousins were being destructive, he silenced them with one barked order, because when Grapea yelled, he meant business. When he would take me fishing, he unhooked the tiny fish I caught to stop me from crying because ‘it was a baby,’ assuring me that no one would ever eat it, because it was smaller than my fist. I am a lot of things he wasn’t, and I can feel his silent pride for taking advantage of opportunities he never had.I Relay because it should have been Grapea crying with Mimi at my graduation, not my Uncle Mike. I Relay because he shouldn’t have had to plan his own funeral, counting down the days he had left. I Relay because after sending me emails with the info and admission stats of (literally) 100+ colleges within an hour of Andover and taking me on visits of 15 of those, he should have lived to see me make my decision. One year ago today, my Grapea became a ‘was.’ Cancer sucked the life out of the most energetic, sensible, L.L. Bean loving, and understanding person I know. He fought until the last day, and now it’s my turn: I will Relay until my last day, and hopefully inspire others: It’s time to fight back.
 
 

RelayLOVE,

 
Entertainment Committee
 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Coach

When I think of Coach Deb Brown, I hear her basketball game-day black, high-heeled leather boots, stomping onto the court to fire us up or argue a call. I see her standing on the field hockey sideline in the pouring rain, yelling at us to get back on defense. I see her crouched next to third base on the softball field, her arm swinging around like a windmill directing us home. I feel her grabbing the back of my jersey, getting in my face and telling me what I needed to do to win the game.  I see her hosting team pasta parties at her house, mixing her famous Caesar salad and bonding with the team. I see her as I did when I met her in fifth grade: tall, intimidating and passionate. When I think of Coach Deb Brown, I don’t think of breast cancer.
 
I don’t think of her leaving practice early to get tests done, or travelling into New York City to get surgery. I don’t think of the winces of pain that shot across her face when she moved her arms in just the wrong way swinging a softball bat for infield practice, or the smile that would mask the pain afterwards. I don’t think of sophomore-in-high-school me hearing that the woman who had been a pushing me to be a better person, athlete and teammate since I was twelve, had cancer.
 
I remember when she told the team of her diagnosis, she described her breast cancer as “stage zero.” They had caught it early, but cancer isn’t something to mess with. Deb never brought it up after that. I’d occasionally ask how she was feeling and the answer was always the same. “I’m fine,” she’d say as she told me to go do my warm up laps or join my team in drills. Looking back on it, I think practice was an escape, a time to focus on our field hockey season (and making sure we weren’t cutting corners on our sprints) instead of whatever medical diagnoses she had just gotten. Deb was the strongest woman I knew, because whatever was going on in her personal life didn’t affect her on the field. She didn’t let her cancer define her, in fact, she did her best to make us forget that she was affected by it at all.
 
 
The only time that the team publicly recognized her cancer was during the Coaches Vs. Cancer game that we put together every season to support local coaches affected by cancer. I remember getting my pink warm up shirt for basketball with the “I Play For…” written on the back, waiting to be filled in with a sharpie to show the crowd who we were supporting that night. Deb’s name went on my shirt all three years after she was diagnosed. Our team had never been collectively affected by something before, and as unfortunate as the circumstances were, Deb brought us together as a team even further. We had a united reason to battle on the court, we all had her name on our backs. I Relay (and play) for Deb.
 
The nature of our relationship was very much a mother-daughter relationship. Deb wouldn’t take any of my crap and knew how to get me to play my best on my off-days. She knew to wind me up like a toy car on the sideline, to get my wheels spinning and then to push me back into the game to skid off and finish the fight. She told me not to cry as the final buzzer sounded when we lost in first-round basketball playoffs my freshman year … and sophomore year… and junior year… and she was in the audience for the eventual win my senior year. Deb’s always been in my corner, and I’ll always be in hers.
 
 
Finding pictures to accompany this post was difficult, mainly because Deb shies away from the camera at every given opportunity, making one excuse or another to duck away before the flash went off. I did, however, find her in all of our team pictures. Deb’s the biggest team player in the game, the one to bind us together, to take me aside to make sure that everyone was getting along off the field as well as on the field. Furthermore, I didn’t want the focus of this blog post to be cancer, because that was never Deb’s focus. Deb focused on the girls that (half) jokingly called her mom, that cheered her on at her bowling nights, that she told to “RELAX!” at the foul line, or the pitcher’s circle or during strokes of a field hockey game. Deb builds teams into families. 
 
 
So this one’s for you, Deb. For your tireless efforts to motivate us at (too) early Saturday morning practices (the best way to encourage a bunch of New York girls is to promise a deli-run after practice), for the famous Caesar salad and the way you walk excitedly up and down the sideline at a field hockey game. For the way that cancer never stopped you from being you and helping us.
 
RelayLove,
 
 
Team Engagement Committee
 
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