My last day of chemo was June 7. I finished radiation on July 21. Two weeks later, I was at Geneseo, meeting the team for preseason. Clearly, I was nervous - what college freshman wasn’t - but it was just another situation where I had to rip off the bandage.
The team was so receptive. I found a family at “SUNY G,” and everyone just wanted to see me succeed.
It was frustrating not being able to compete with my teammates, especially since they were achieving so much success. All the while, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if? But Coach Moore assured me that I just needed to be patient and my time would come.
That first year was tough. Some of the chemo had longer-lasting effects that I am still recovering from. I struggled with confidence not only because I was just starting college, but because I was an 18-year-old girl wearing wigs just to feel normal. Because I wasn’t able to compete with my team, let alone run. Because I had “baggage.”
I also struggled a great deal with memory. One of the effects of my chemo was short-term memory loss. My poor boyfriend would ask me on dates a week in advance and I would completely forget. As a biology major, this especially made school a challenge. Terms I would understand in class and ace on homework would become completely foreign to me during exams.
Struggling in school was nothing new for me. I always had to work for my good grades, I had to work to be fast on the track too. Things never just came easy to me. But putting in all of this effort for it to still not pay off was another hindrance to my already low confidence.
I started jogging around November, and was running workouts by March. Slowly, I could feel my confidence coming back as my hair got longer, my grades came up, and my times came down. I started to feel like I was actually almost out of the woods.
I read somewhere that ships don’t sink because of the water around them, but from the water that gets inside. I think that is incredibly important to think about in sports as well as in life. Runners especially can be hard on themselves - it was tough during my treatment and continues even now - but as long as you do your best to focus on what you can control, and not dwell on all the obstacles that life tries to flood you with, it is possible to stay afloat.
And when you are faced with adversity, its important to take a step back and ask not only where have I come from, but also where can I go?
This past summer I officially began training with Coach Moore and was able to join the team when everyone came back for preseason. During our time trial, I was nowhere near the fastest, basically finishing last. But the Geneseo coaching staff saw something in me and I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for the opportunity.
I owe my love of running to my high school coach, Brian Lasher. He helped me realize that hard work will always pay off if you can just be patient, which is also an ideal held in high regard at Geneseo. Trusting the process can be scary, but having a team that you can fully put your faith in makes it a lot less daunting.
I feel myself getting faster and into better shape with every workout and drop time with nearly every race I run. But I also find myself feeling more like myself and more at home with every stride I take.