On deck

April 10, 2012

Yesterday got a little bit real for me.

I was standing on deck at the University of Buffalo pool, with a large group of people from UB Special events, UB security, The UB production crew and the team from Roswell Park. It was the day we figure out the logistics and do some behind the scenes shooting for the video UB will produce of the Duel in the Pool. As I looked around I thought to myself “Good god Eggers you made a lot of work for a lot of people.”

I mean…. we have security kind of security for this thing.

I thought it was funny how one of the guys turned to me and said….. you know Lance won’t be coming here to lose, I hear he’s a pretty competitive guy.

I just smiled and nodded. I have been in contact with Mr. Armstrong I assured him…. he knows exactly what this is about.

Because he does. He knows the amusement of a kick off and I know for a fact he knows that this is much bigger than the two of us kicking two lengths of the pool. As I stood there in front of another camera and another set of big bright lights and now I know to look at the reporter and not the camera …. any time I feel the slightest bit nervous about racing one of the greatest athletes in the world… I remember the big picture.

The reporter (who had a beautiful way of allowing me to feel at ease) asked me if there was anything I wanted to add at the end. For the first time…. I said yes. I am understanding the impact of a camera in front of me and a reporter whose ear I have. I reminded that as cancer survivors these Teens have a higher risk of developing a secondary and for some tertiary cancer. Our biggest weapon in that fight is fitness and nutrition. That is where we can make a bigger impact.

All it takes is education and encouragement. Heck, we just proved that.

The story is how I got Mr. Armstrong to agree to this event, but the real story is why. Mr. Armstrong definitely understands why. Trust me he’s not worried about who will win a kick off (because he really, already knows it will be me), he’s interested in how far we can reach.

I think that together as a community we can reach pretty darn far. I think together as a community we can show this country what Rochester and what Buffalo is really about.

I will be totally honest, when the Special Events Dept at UB first decided this kick off would be a private and closed event and that their production team would capture the whole thing to be revealed at the speech…. I was disappointed. As were you. But as we plotted out the logistics yesterday I felt really good about the decision. It was the right one to make, and here is why.

Our Teens will be on bleachers alongside the pool They are the ones who will be right there on deck and with Mr. Armstrong and I. Everyone else (invited parents and donors) will be in the grandstands, if you know the pool at UB, you know the set up. There isn’t a bad seat in the house and all seats allow you to be close and see the action as it unfolds.

And that’s how it should be. The Teens should have VIP access. They should be the ones who are right there and upfront. They understand better than anyone what this is about. It’s not being a fan of Lance Armstrong, it’s the message. They get the message.

I am proud of the decision. It’s the right thing to do. The production team has such a knockout presentation planned (and you will be able to not just see that video!!!), that in many ways it will be better than coming to UB, watching a 45 second race (or faster) going home, and coming back for the speech.

I stood on the deck for a moment as the meeting moved on and moved elsewhere and we did some filming of the pool and my swimming (all the other videos have been in a therapy pool that was 96 degrees). I got to stand there, a 16 lane pool to myself. Where I swam ten years ago as part of the UB Masters team and for the 2 semesters I was a student there.

This pool is part of my heritage. In high school sectional were here. In college I was part of the birth of the Nickel City Splash. I swam a lot of yards here. I swam a lot of meets here. Here I stood, three weeks away from the most important swim of my life. Not because of who I will be competing against…. although in my wildest dreams I never thought I would swim against Lance Armstrong….. but because of the bigger race this is all part of.

I will never allow this to stop being about Teens Living With Cancer. I can’t tell you how easy it could be. This could too easily become about me, and the tweet, and Mr. Armstrong. Melissa’s name serves as my compass and I pretend at all times that I am dealing with the media that they are standing in front of me.

I want them to know that in my heart and my soul I fight this fight for them. For them specifically. Because they are the ones who need it. Because I took care of two of them when they were at their sickest. Because I have seen them go through chemotherapy, lose their hair, lay awake shaking all night because of all the damn treatment while their friends all went to the prom. I have smiled through tears with them as their hair falls out, as we restart yet another IV in bruised and weary arms at 2:30am when exhaustion is so thick and their will remains unbreakable.

Those are the moments you don’t know about. The 2:30am moments. When the world is asleep and they are awake, and the hours are longer than the minutes. When the white coats come off and the scrub sleeves get rolled up. When we sit on the bed and put our arms around them or their parents and we just finally cry. Because we have to. No administrators are around, no one is coming in from the local professional hockey team. No visitors. No nothing.

2:30am is when it all gets pretty damn real.

Those are the moments I think about when I am standing in front of a camera. The moments I could talk about but that wouldn’t resonate, unless you’ve been there. Try kneeling at the bedside of one of these teens, trying to access a mediport that won’t access. You don’t even try to avoid eye contact, as the tears run down their face. They hate you but they and you know it’s not you. Its the f*cking cancer that put them here. And the mediport won’t access despite the huber needle that’s supposed to be the best one ever. And the CRN can’t get it either. And there is no one else so you have to keep trying. Emla means nothing, tears are flowing but still, they would always manage to find something funny in the situation.

Because they have to. It’s that or die and I never met a kid who was content with dying. Even if they were on hospice.

As I swam for the camera that’s what I thought about. This is not about me, it’s not about me at all. This is about them.

Let’s keep it that way. Donate. And if you don’t have the ability to donate, you have the ability to share.



  1. This is a very moving post because I’ve been there with you Mary. The one holding a hand, crying with the parents. I feel you. I know your message is loud and clear. You keep doing what you are doing!

  2. I hear ya.

    Never been in that situation, but at a Life with Cancer peds night, I remember one Mom asking another Mom if her daughter’s time in the hospital coincided with the hospital Christmas party. If it did, the asking Mom was looking forward to being with them.

    Unique life I thought…

    Or the time when 2 years ago a beloved colleague’s son died at 17 from leukemia.. His dad got the call during tryouts, but somehow Robbie came back from being declared dead, so all family members could gather around… only to pass on fully the next morning.

    There’s something so beautiful yet wrenching in these moments… the pure raw humanity… yes, I suppose “beautiful” might seem an odd chioce of words, but it’s how I perceive things… how else can one comprehend it?

  3. It is also about Lance Armstrong. I’m sure he has many other people bugging him for his time, so kudos to him for agreeing to do this.

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