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The LEAP Student Blog

Colin Malaska - Eastside Catholic HS

Author: Colin Malaska
Grade: Senior
School: Eastside Catholic HS
Mascot: Crusaders
League: Metro
Classification: 3A

No One Fights Alone

As I found my seat in the bleachers of my school’s gym, I thought I was attending just another Eastside Catholic pep rally. The students packed into the bleachers, waiting for the standard pre-game cheers to be done with so they could go home after a long day of school. I had the same mindset as the rest of my peers, until something unusual caught my eye. I noticed every girl from the JV and varsity volleyball teams was wearing a different brightly-colored t-shirt with the phrase “No One Fights Alone” on the front. The girls lined up across the wall at the end of our gym, forming a rainbow of vibrant colors with their unique shirts. I was confused by the purpose of these shirts. After almost four years of attending Eastside Catholic, never had I heard the phrase “No One Fights Alone,” nor had I seen the volleyball team wear anything like this. The crowd hushed as a woman wearing a tan version of the shirt stepped into the center of the gym and began to speak into the microphone.

I soon recognized this woman as our school’s new varsity head volleyball coach, Angie McKinnell. After introducing herself to the student body, she started her speech by asking any student who directly knew someone who had cancer to stand up. Almost every student rose to their feet in silence. Angie then went on to say that those who remained sitting down can stand up too, because she had battled cancer. I never would have thought that this athletic and happy-spirited woman had cancer. After Angie told the students to sit back down, she continued to describe her multiple battles with cancer.

Angie McKinnell was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer just before turning 21 during her senior year at Oregon State University. After rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, her cancer returned just before she was given clearance that she was healthy. However, Angie’s determination and positive outlook helped her fight the returning cancer and restore her health. Another tragedy struck Angie’s life in 2009 when she found out that the asthma she thought she had her whole life was actually lung cancer. The lung cancer spread quickly and was already in the fourth stage of development. The doctors told Angie she had only two to four weeks to live. Yet, remarkably, the surgery done to remove the tumors of lung cancer, was a success and Angie slowly recuperated once again back to her healthy state. After her recovery, Angie returned to Washington to work as a tutor to student-athletes at the University of Washington. In February of 2012, more bad news arrived as the doctors told Angie that her lung cancer had returned. After battling through radiation treatment and eleven weeks of chemotherapy, McKinnell was cleared as being healthy once again.

Angie’s story shocked the audience. I could not believe that someone would have the perseverance and optimism to fight through cancer four different times and come out victorious. McKinnell went on to explain the reasoning behind the volleyball players’ various shirts. Each color of shirt represented a different form of cancer, which was written on the back. The players passed around the microphone as they stated which type of cancer that they played to fight for. Lastly, Angie said that she coaches with lung cancer. Angie’s cancer awareness movement and the story of her battles with cancer inspired the entire school. At the next volleyball game, almost every student bought a “No One Fights Alone” shirt and wore it to the game to help spread cancer awareness.

Angie McKinnell is a true inspiration because of her positive outlook, warm sincerity, and “never-quit” attitude. Single-handedly, she was able to open up the eyes of an entire school of students to the seriousness of cancer while encouraging each student to go out and do something to show their support for those battling cancer. McKinnell has made an impact on Eastside Catholic and will continue changing people’s lives wherever she goes.

Colin Malaska

October 2012

10/26/2012 Lily Karges - Holy Names Academy
10/22/2012 Hector Ruiz - Mariner HS
10/9/2012 Colin Malaska - Eastside Catholic HS

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