While playing hockey at Boston College, we were always active in charitable events and community service. Working with under privileged children, making regular hospital visits at Children’s, and raising money for local schools and scholarship programs, were things that were a part of the culture of Coach York’s program. There is one memory in particular that has stuck with me and was a big part of why I wanted to be a part of this. On a visit to Children’s Hospital the summer after my senior year, I met with a young girl who had recently been diagnosed with a rare form of Cancer. Her mother explained to me how the chemo was affecting her body and what types of treatment the girl would be going through in the next couple of months. After hearing about this I started to feel selfish. I started to think about the times when I had complained about the smallest and unimportant issues in my life. I thought about times in my life when I had made excuses to not work hard in school or hockey. I realized that no matter what is going on in your life there are thousands of other people and families who are faced with far worse circumstances than the trivial things that we sometimes let take control of ourselves and our everyday lives.
As her mother finished explaining the extensive surgeries and procedures that this young girl had already been through and would be going through I walked over to the girl and handed her a teddy bear. I remember thinking to myself, “How is this going to help her at all?” And then she smiled. She smiled like I had just told her she was cancer free. She smiled like she was sitting at the top of the stairs on Christmas Morning waiting for her parents to tell her it was ok to come downstairs. I was immediately taken back. I shook her hand and the shy young girl kept putting the bear in front of her face to hide the smile as her mother explained about how she put on her own makeup to look pretty for her visitors. Although I knew of her current circumstances, she looked full of life. She looked like she had no fears. I can honestly say that she did more for me that day than anything that I could have done for her.
When I got released from a minor league contract I had signed in California I started to feel bad for myself as I had many other times in my life. I made excuses with what had happened. I told my parents I would get picked up by another team, relying on them financially and for a roof over my head. I changed that when I took a job in Boston and moved in with an old teammate from BC. As for my new career path, I was fearful about what I wanted out of life. When I started working I felt an emptiness that the sport that I love used to fill. I did not know what could make up for it, what could steer me back on track and then I picked up my gloves again. I had boxed as a way to train my body in a different way than it was used to before my first pro season. I found it to be harder physically and mentally than any other training I had previously done but I found enjoyment in pushing the limits.
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There is something that boxing can measure that in other sports cannot be measured. In boxing you are toe to toe with someone else and can measure the type of person you are against another individual mentally and physically. The only other time that I had seen this type of challenge was when I saw the girl battling cancer. It was her against the worst kind of disease.
Seeing the way that this girl handled herself at such a young age made me want to fight. Every day she is faced with a new hardship, a new pain, a new medication. She wakes up every morning not knowing what the day may have in store for her but ready to fight. I think we can all learn something from that.
Over the next four months, I want to share with you all the type of training I will be involved with and some of the visits I will be making with people fighting cancer. As I mentioned I have never done anything like this before documenting experiences like the ones I will have through April but my hope is that as I learn from those experiences maybe you can too.