After we ate, my mom shared something I didn't expect to hear: she had been diagnosed with cancer. The same cancer, the doctor explained two days later, that almost killed her 18 years prior. I wanted so desperately to stay in Montreal and be with my mom, but she wouldn't let me stay and worry about her. So just a few days after learning she was sick, I was on a plane back to Raleigh for Christmas training camp part two.
For anyone who has ever swam competitively, you know how hard Christmas training camps can be. Imagine being incredibly distracted and adding an extreme feeling of isolation and homesickness. A time that is already physically and emotionally draining for swimmers quickly became dreadful.
But as news spread about what I was going through, teammates began to step out and share their own stories. With the support from my swim team family, I suddenly went from feeling isolated and miserable to realizing how strong my mom is and that I, although a thousand miles from home, would always be with family.
My teammates got me fired up to finish the season the way I had started it, but for the first time in my collegiate career, when I looked up in the stands during ACC Championships and NCAA Championships, I knew I wouldn't see my mom's face in the crowd. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't hard, but fortunately my dad and my grandmother were there.
The championship season finished off above and beyond what I ever could have imagined.