Surviving and Transforming Through Life

Freshman Defensive Specialist/Outside Hitter Carlow University
Lyndsey Weiser
Written about her experience playing through the last few years at Kiski Area for her first major college writing assignment.  Well done Lynds!

Surviving and Transforming Through Life
In May of 2012, while watching a junior varsity softball game against Gateway High School with my fellow varsity team members, I noticed that my knee was locking up each time I stood.  I thought it was nothing since my knee always had some slight pain.  However, this particular pain would prove to be much more serious than anticipated.  It was finally time for varsity to warm up, so we started our normal routine.   My knee was hurting a bit more than it normally did, and as I made a particular movement, something happened that hurt more than anything I have ever experienced in my life.  “I can’t walk!” I exclaimed.  My coach thought it would help to tape my knee, so that’s what we did.  It was wrapped so tightly that I could not feel a thing, which was perfect because I wanted to play so desperately.  After thinking the tape had solved my problem temporarily, I twisted that same knee while walking back to the dugout.  This incident was the first step in a vicious sequence of events that would shape the rest of my life.
As I writhed in pain, “Oh no!” seemed to be the only thing I could say.  It felt like my whole leg had split in half. I dropped down onto the bench, clutched my knee and rocked back and forth, trying to dim the pain. The athletic trainer soon arrived to help. I was crying so hard that I could not speak at all“How can she be hurt?” my father asked as he arrived in the dugout,“She finished the game and was perfectly fine.” When he finally saw the pain stricken look on my face, he became quiet, realizing that this was not a joke.
An hour or so later while in the hospital, the doctor stood next to me and said, “I have news that you may not want to hear.  You have broken your femur bone in your knee and you will need to get surgery as soon as possible.” My head fell and my eyes started to water. I felt like my whole life was overSports meant everything to me and I could not really picture my life without them.  
As it turned out, I had to sit out during my senior basketball and volleyball seasons.   I have played these sports since I was young and knowing my last year would be spent sitting on the bench was heartbreaking.  I never thought this would be something I would ever have to deal with. I followed my doctor’s orders, but still attended each of my team’s practices. My parents kept asking, “Why are you still going to practices and games if you cannot even step on the court and play?” I explained, I would feel wrong not being there for them during the seasons because I have been through so much with everyone.  Forgetting about all of it would just kill me.”
My parents accepted this explanation, but I do not think they really knew how hard this time in my life was for me. I was no longer talkative and energetic like I always have been. I became very quiet, withdrawn, and I lacked enthusiasm for pretty much everything. The only place that felt right was sitting on the bench with my teammates, supporting them all the way to the end of the season.
When fall came and my senior year was underway, my family and I were camping, which was something we often did at least once at the end of summer. I remember the spot at the campfire where I was sitting when a text appeared from a volleyball teammate saying, I havesome really bad news.  Coach and I would rather call you and tell you in person.” I replied, “Ok.”  Moments later, I dialed my teammate’s number. She answered, but all I could hear was crying and snifflingImmediately I asked, “What happened? What is going on?” All she could get out before completely bawling is something along the lines of, “Coach Jaime’s cancer is back and it’s really bad this time.” My heart stopped. My mind went blank. I couldn’t believe it. Tears rolled down my face immediately as I repeated her words in my mind, Coach has cancer.”Coach Jamie Vick Moran, the woman who had taught me so many things on and off the court, died a few days later from leukemia. She was strong, young, vibrant, and helped so many people in her lifetime. It is no wonder that so many events were created because of her legacy.  Donations were collected and given to Children’s Hospital to help with any possible need. A scholarship bearing her heroic name is now given each year for female student athletes at Kiski Area High School. Coach Jaime Vick Moran was known by many people, and she touched so many peoples’ hearts, including mine. It was hard to say goodbye and accept this loss of someone so special and pure.
In late August, just weeks after burying our coach, we were hit with another situation at a volleyball meeting. Coach Ellen stood in, as she always did, but this time she seemed to struggle to look happy and keep a strong face. As she began to tell us the news, we nervously listened as her voice shook.   She said, “I am truly sorry this is happening again and I don’t want you guys to have to hear this, but you’re part of my family and you need to know what’s going on.” As she continued, she said, “I have received news that I have cancer again.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Not Coach Ellen!” I thought as I feared the worse.  She continued on, “But I am going to be strong and will get through this.  I am not ready to give up this great family of ours.”
The room fell silent as the team contemplated what to say or do to make the situation better, but no one could come up with anything to lighten the mood. As everyone began to accept what was happening, we went around and gave each other hugs and said that everything wasgoing to be fine. Even though the words, “everything is going to be fine” was coming from ourmouths, you could see fear written on everyone’s faces, especially mine. All we could do waspray and hope she would be strong, like Jaime, and get through this treacherous disease.
Ellen is the strongest person that I have ever known. She has helped me in so many ways.She has helped me as an athlete, as a young woman, and as believer in those things we cannot see.  She was the one person who got me to where I am today. I learned so much from her and I can never thank her enough for what she has done for me. To this day, when I think about her, all I can see is a look of happiness on her face. No matter what happened, she always found enough strength to get through the tough times of her life. She will never change her attitude towards life, as she lives her life to the fullest with every breath she breaths.
A year later, in recognition of these two amazing coaches, we were invited back to participate in an event called “Jam the Gym”.  The goal was to get as many people as we could to fill the gym at Kiski High School and to raise money for charity. The outcome was unbelievable. I was excited because this gave me an opportunity to play on my old high schoolcourt one more timeThis one last time made up for not being able to play during my wholesenior year. Going back to the school brought many tears to my eyes because of all the memoriescontained in those walls.  All I could do was cry. It felt good being able to be there aroundeveryone again.  I knew then and I know now that this day was an important one in my life since we had all been through a lot together in our lives.
Just when the pain of uncertainty began to subside, tragedy struck once again. It was December 28th when a teammate, Jenna Prusia, died from a sled riding accident. I was at homesitting in my bed doing homework when I received a text from a random phone number saying,Jenna was in a serious sledding accident. I replied saying, “What are you talking about?” Therandom number responded, “She got into a serious accident.” So I replied, “Is she okay?” They did not answer for a while.  I was worried because of this.  I got out of bed and paced back and forth. Then another text arrived saying, “She was life-flighted to the hospital.  I did not know what to do, or what to think. Then the message screen appeared again saying, “She did not make it.” I ran down the stairs to find my mom, but I didn’t know what to say.
I finally told my mom, “Jenna just passed away, but I don’t know what happened.”  Shelooked at me and started to cry as she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me with all her might. We stood together crying for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality it was only a few short minutes. She said, through her tears, “Everything is going to be okay, Lynns. You’re goingto get through this entire thing one of these days.”  I wanted to believe her. She continued and said, I know this is all so much for you but we have each other to keep our heads up and keep living life no matter how sad it can be.” It was difficult, but somewhere inside me I knew that she was right.  We sat and talked together about how fragile life is, and about how difficult it is to understand how someone can be gone in the blink of an eye.  We cried until we could not cry anymore.  
Later, back in my room, I pulled a blanket over my head and cried some more.  Questions built up inside me in excess.  How could this happen?  Why did it happen?  Why would God makthese special, hard-working, full-of-life people suffer from something they do not deserve?” I thought. Then I remembered the saying about how bad things always happen to thegood people, but still could not make sense of all these tragedies I lived through in such a shortperiod of time.
That’s when I realized how much love and support I have always felt from my mother, my family, and my teammates.  We were strong, united, and only seemed to get closer with every struggle that came our way. Some people took the losses harder than others.  The death of our teammate was probably the most difficult of the ordeals because we had lost one of our supporters, one of our angels.
It has been almost a full year since this season of loss came upon us, and still it is as though it just happened yesterday.  We have scattered, mostly because of going off to collegeand pursuing degrees to which we will devote our lives, and yet I know there is always someonefrom this circle of friends to step in and give me a hug or say something to keep a smile on myface. All I need to do is ask and they will jump to the occasion.  As I move into the future, I know that we will all remain friends because of our special bond and will carry these memories with us throughout our lives. It helps to know, as I continue to struggle to make sense of whathas happen, that my extended family will always be there.  As time moves on, I am beginning to see that what we experienced was a very sad part of life, but it is also a cruel reality that some people must face.  People die every day, and we will all die one day.  Now that I have felt the sting of death, I can see that other people in the world have had worse things happen. It stillhurts, of course, and it takes one’s breath away when they experience it.  Perhaps all we can do is move on. Sure we are a little more vulnerable, and a little more aware of others, but we can use these feelings to help make our world a better place.  
For me, I will take what I have lived through and what I have learned and apply it to myfuture work as a nurse.  That is exactly what our team did.  We took lessons from the lives thattouched us and used those lessons to teach us to be stronger in life. We now have angels looking over us and I take comfort in knowing that they are always watching over me and making sure I am safe and not getting into trouble. They are my guardian angels that lead me through life.Sometimes I hear, “Live your life to the fullest and never give up a chance you are given because you never know when the unexpected will be happen.”  I live by this now and I cling to the onetruth that Coach Jaime left with us, “Although it’s bad and it’s tough, and it’s hard, you can get through it.” I know this is true.  I hear her voice as clear as a bell and I draw strength from her even now during her absence.  Somehow, some way, I know that I will survive, and perhaps, with the help from all of them, and my angels, will thrive.