Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Nancy Strong

TigerBlog's friend Patrick Stevens is in the middle of a series that is projecting the Top 25 teams in men's lacrosse for next spring.

Patrick, who covers as much lacrosse as anyone and who is as knowledgeable as anyone, had Princeton 20th in his way-ahead rankings. Here's what he said about the Tigers:

No program — not hadn’t-quite-put-it-together-yet Penn State, not scorching Syracuse, not even fellow Ivies Cornell and Yale — deserved to see how the spring of 2020 would play out as much as Princeton did.

TB could remind everyone that nobody had Princeton ranked anywhere in the preseason and that when the season was cancelled in mid-March, the Tigers were ranked second or third, depending on the poll you like. 

When the 2020 preseason began, TB was pretty sure Princeton would be much better than anyone was suggesting. He was relatively certain this was at least a Top 10 team, but it didn't matter if nobody else in the preseason agreed. The Tigers would have every chance to prove, or not prove, that they belonged.

And that's what happened. 

Princeton won all five of its games, scoring at least 16 goals each time. Matt Madalon's team was complete all over the field, with depth and athleticism combine with a strong team culture. The 2020 Tigers were primed for very big things, and Patrick is right when he says it would have been great to see how it played out.

Anyway, preseason polls don't mean much, though they are fun. 

And, in this uncertain world, it's nice to simply read about lacrosse and how a possible 2021 season might shake out, even if it has the Tigers lower than TB would have put them.

Of course, these days nothing is certain. Will there be a 2021 season? TB really hopes so, but that's not up to him.

This brings him to today's subject, which isn't just Princeton lacrosse.

When there is no certainty on things, all you can do is make your best possible decisions and hope for the best, right?  

TigerBlog wants to tell you about his longtime colleague and friend in the Department of Athletics, Nancy Donigan, part of the compliance staff (her husband Joe has also been a longtime Princeton employee). He asked Nancy's permission to share this with you, and she said she was fine with it, especially if it helps someone.

Nancy currently is undergoing chemo for breast cancer. She might not have even been aware she had breast cancer had she not gone for her annual mammogram, something that she was considering not doing because of the COVID-19 situation. 

Why go into the doctor's office unnecessarily, right? That's what she was thinking. Then she decided to go anyway, even though it was a few months later than she might otherwise have done.

The result? Her cancer was caught early, and now she's in treatment.

Her message? Don't let the virus situation keep you from taking care of yourself.

Nancy is strong. She's a former athlete herself, a soon-to-be member of her high school Hall of Fame. She was stunned by the initial diagnosis, but she quickly shifted from "why is this happening to me" to "I will beat this."

And so now she is doing just that. 

She's certainly gotten the support of the entire department. There have been t-shirts with "Nancy Strong" on them, and she has been overwhelmed by the number of calls and texts and videos that show how much people are thinking about her.

Her diagnosis came shortly after she and Joe became grandparents for the first time. Being a grandmother has given her added strength and purpose, not that she really needed additional inspiration.

Nancy is a Princeton Athletics staple. She's funny, well-meaning, empathetic and always upbeat. She's been dealt something that she says she has always dreaded, and she hasn't backed down at all. 

Everyone at Princeton is rooting hard for her. 

And her message is to take care of yourself. Make sure you don't let the COVID-19 situation stand in the way of getting yourself checked out when it's necessary.

She's glad she did. And a bit lucky she did.

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