I am an only child. But there are people that have come into my life that have made me understand that the term "brother or sister" means a whole lot more than the fact that you were birthed from the same parents. There are a select few people that I actually consider a sibling because of the amazing impact they have had on my life and the fact that since the day they walked into my life I have understood that they will always be there when I need them just like "real siblings" would be.
My big sister, Clare Droesch, is one of those people. If you have never heard that name before, I suggest you open a new tab on your computer or smart phone/device and type her name into Google. But, please come back and finish reading this, because with everything you find on her, you might get distracted. Clare was one of the greatest basketball players to come out of New York, ever. She went to Christ the King HS in Queens, and played college ball at Boston College where she led her team to a Big East Championship over the always powerful UConn. She then went on to play pro ball in Portugal. She was a BALLER - straight up scorer, spicy attitude, lights out shooter, stud of a baller. We met when she was in college and I was a 13 year old little snot at sleep away basketball camp. I knew nothing about her before then, but she was my camp coach and I had a ton of fun that week. We ended up winning the camp championship (we called it the National Championship) which we both never got over because that is how much of sore winners we both are. I was never the kid that would lay low, I was always finding my way into trouble somehow. That year at camp I hid in my buddies room during room check because I wanted to hang out past curfew. I came to find out later that pretty much the entire camp was on lock down looking for me - whoops. I think little things like that is what drew Clare and I together, because after hearing some of her war stories later on, the hiding in the room incident was nothing.
From then on Clare and I kept in touch. She even ended up coaching my AAU team for a few summers. I wanted to be like her more and more. I wanted to be the bad ass hoop star she was, I wanted to shoot like her, I wanted to win like her - she was SO GOOD at winning. One of the biggest compliments I would get was when someone would refer to me as "baby Clare" or something of that nature. I started to pick up some of her court swag and that's where the sister thing started.
As I got older, we became even closer. When the time came where I was being recruited and trying to figure out where I wanted to play college ball, Clare was always right by my side to give me advice and share her experiences with me in order to make my recruiting process a little less stressful. I will never forget the time I called her about a day or two after my ACL reconstruction surgery - one of the worst times of my life. It happened right before playoffs my junior year in high school. For all you non-ballers, that is PRIME TIME recruiting season. Junior summer is show off time if you want to play high level collegiate ball. Instead of getting ready for that, I was home. I was immobile, in a huge brace, terrified, depressed, crushed - I just wanted to play ball and undo the awful night I went down. I felt like life wasn't fair and I was going to lose everything I had worked so hard for up to that point. I called her because I was sure no one else would understand how I felt. We talked for a little, I cried to her, she listened and understood. But before we hung up she assured me this would all be okay eventually. She said I would bounce back, that my dream of playing ball in college was still going to be a reality soon, and I would just have to work that much harder to prove to everyone that I could come back strong. Basically, she told me it was time to put in work. She made sense to me, or knocked some sense into me. I ended up proving her right. All was okay in the end. I will never forget that little conversation. I even remember where I was sitting in my house when I was on the phone. This is just an example of the bond we had and always will have. That's my sister.
Another phone conversation I will never forget with Clare is the one no one EVER wants to have with someone they love. I was on the road headed to play an away game. It was early January of 2012. She called, as she would sometimes the day before I played. But this time she wasn't calling to tell me to kill it out there or to do my thing. She called me with the crushing news that she had stage 4 breast cancer. At the age of 29. WHAAAAT?! There were tumors in her spine and hips and she was talking about chemo and surgeries and treatment programs. To make the situation even more difficult, Clare was employed without health coverage, and cancer treatment is by no means affordable. (Thank god the community banded together - like it always seems to do in times of tragedy - and setup a donation fund for her. I will include the link at the bottom.) I tried to offer the same comfort and support that she provided years back when I called upset about my injury (something that was so minuscule in comparison to this) but I was caught off guard for a few reasons. 1) No one ever expects to get that call 2) I couldn't really come to terms with it and 3) She seemed SO DAMN POSITIVE for someone who was talking about their own cancer, it made no sense to me! But that was and still is Clare through all of this. All I could offer were similar words she had offered me years ago. I told her to work as hard as she could and to fight like hell to defend herself against this disease. She promised she would keep her head up and keep a smile on her face, and not succumb to the cancer. She has been a fighter beyond what I ever thought possible in someone in her situation. If she wasn't already one of my biggest inspirations, this put the icing on the cake.
My college coach knew how much she meant to me as well as the entire college basketball world. She allowed me to put together a fund raiser and honor her at one of our home games. We wore pink and we warmed up in CRUSH CLARE'S CANCER tee shirts to honor my big sister and the strongest person I know. Every time I stepped foot on the court from then on it was for her. I knew Clare loved nothing more then being on the court doing her thing; and I also knew the sad reality was that I did not know how much longer my big sister would be only a phone call away.
That was the beginning of 2012. In October of 2012, my basketball life was over and I was now ankles deep in the CrossFit world. BARBELLS FOR BOOBS was coming to my gym! I was so excited because all I could think about was my big sister still fighting her battle, and winning. I taped a picture of her up on our wall that day. I did my first Grace, (30 Clean and Jerks for time at 95#) the standard BB4B workout, in 2:29. After, I didn't feel like I had exercised enough, so I did Grace again but at the men's weight (135#) this time, finishing in 6:38.
It's now October of 2013. December will mark two years that Clare has been fighting this awful disease - great news is she is still winning. Unbelievably. She has been through weeks and weeks of chemo and a countless number of surgeries and procedures. Her spirit is incredible and every time I talk to her I am reminded of her strength and how I have never ever EVER met anyone stronger than her. This year I participated in Barbells for Boobs again. Over the past year, I have been getting stronger everyday in the gym; just like Clare has been getting stronger everyday fighting cancer. To honor this, I upped the weight of Grace just a little more. This year I used 155# and finished in 7:14. I rocked my I WEAR PINK FOR MY SISTER shirt as I always do.
After I had time to reflect on the day and what it actually meant to me I was almost brought to tears. I see amazing feats of strength displayed everyday by a lot of amazing athletes. However, none have been as impressive as the strength displayed by my big sister. Every time I lift, I do it for her. I wish I could lift the burden that has been placed on her, but that is just unrealistic. So instead I will continue to just try and be like her, as I have since I was young. The ability to display incredible acts of strength and determination daily, to keep my head up no matter what limits life pushes me to, and to always keep a smile on my face because someone is out there busy being stronger than you or fighting a bigger battle - those are life lessons my sister has taught me. I love you sis ! :)
Here is the link for Clare's donation fund. Scroll down to where it says "Crushing Cancer Fund for Clare" and you will find the button to donate from. If you are able, any contribution would be greatly appreciated by myself as well as Clare and her family. We can all help her fight. TEAM CLARE.
Changing gears here, this coming weekend I am lifting in a Weightlifting meet in Lancaster, PA on Saturday. Apparently it is a much bigger meet than the first one I did and I know some great athletes that are attending. My strength and conditioning coach from college is actually competing alongside me, so I am pretty pumped for that! I am looking to up my total before the American Open (which now sits at 152kg) as well as get some more experience on the platform. This past week of training has brought some crazy ups and downs actually, but I am pretty content with the way I have handled it (more on that in my next post). I will be back next week with an update from Lancaster!
Photo Credits in this post go to the amazing Shaun "Super" Cleary. Check out his work here!
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at: