- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
In November, Nancy and the kids moved to Seattle, and Marin saw a team of pediatric oncologists at the Children's Hospital. The doctors scanned the MRIs and called Marin and her parents for a summit. "There's nothing we can do; nothing will stem the growth of this cancer," they said flatly. "Get your affairs in order, and enjoy your last few months together."
Marin turned to her parents, who were in tears. "Don't believe 'em," she said in her halting speech. "I'll keep fighting."
Says Nancy, "You saw the way she handled it and you thought, How can I do anything but keep my strength and courage up?"
Marin, now 15, fought the tumor with any weapon she could find. Holistic medicine. A macrobiotic diet. Exercise. Prayer. She swallowed as many as 100 pills a day. She read alternately from the Bible and from the canon of Lance Armstrong. She forced herself to swig puna noni juice, a supposedly healing concoction from Hawaii. She entered a clinical trial sponsored by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. It's hard to know where to apportion the credit, but for more than a year the tumor shrank.
And there was the water. The right side of her body might have been paralyzed, but in her natural habitat Marin retrieved a one-armed training drill from her healthier days and improvised a stroke that resembled rowing with one oar. Using her left arm and leg, she piloted her body up and down the pool. Even cosmetically she was more comfortable in the water. On land she sometimes felt self-conscious wearing a knit hat to conceal the scars on her head. In the pool, well, everyone wore a swim cap.
Marin was enrolled in a homebound academic program at nearby Eastlake High, and she joined the school's swim team. Because of her speech she couldn't communicate with her teammates as well as she'd have liked, but she was thrilled to be part of a team again. She competed on the jayvee and occasionally on the varsity.
Kiko Van Zandt, a rehab nurse at the Children's Hospital, moonlighted as coach of the Seattle Shadow Seals, a local team for disabled swimmers. At Van Zandt's prodding, Marin entered a race in Michigan at the end of 2006. Swimmers were put into 10 classes, based on the severity of their disability; as an S5 (in the middle range of functional ability), Marin set two national records. Van Zandt told her that with those times she could qualify for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, which would follow the Summer Olympics.
About a year earlier, the Make-A-Wish Foundation had contacted Marin to ask if there was something special she'd like to do in her final months. After much prodding she said she'd like to travel: "Go to Beijing."
"Great," the representative said. "Maybe we can get tickets for the Olympics...."
"Not to watch," Marin explained. "To compete as a swimmer for the U.S.A."