Friday, April 8, 2016

Sun Safe Play

Anyone who has been around USA field hockey long enough will probably remember our Sun Safe Play Campaign from 2008. It stressed the importance of protecting your skin and health from the detrimental effects long term exposure to the sun can have on not only your skin, but on your overall health. The sun is very powerful and we need to take the proper precautions when we spend so much time enjoying its beautiful light and comforting warmth!

Besides the fact that the sun can dehydrate you and negatively affect your performance, the sun can do a number on your skin. It can cause wrinkles, brown spots, red blotches, accelerate sagging, and of course that ever painful sunburn. But what many don’t realize is that is can cause cancer. Melanoma by definition occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give color to the skin become cancerous. If not treated early, this cancer spreads to other parts of the body at which point it becomes more difficult to treat and can be fatal.

Melanoma kills an estimated 10,130 people annually! It is not even the most common of all skin cancers, but it causes the most deaths!

These stats are staggering to me, because a lot of this can be prevented with the proper protection and awareness. I urge you to take this to heart. No one is susceptible and invincible.

This subject touches me and the field hockey community deeply. As most of you know, I spent my college days at Wake Forest University. Growing up in Chapel Hill, I spent many summers down the road in Winston-Salem, for camps, Futures and attending games. I was inspired by many of the great players before me who had such a passion for the game and for life. There was one individual who stuck out though. She was my coach one summer at Wake camp and something about her was infectious. I was drawn to her. Maybe it was her height, she was short like me! Maybe it was she was always smiling and having so much fun! Maybe it was her competitive spirit that urged my extreme competitiveness to proudly come out! Maybe it was the constant encouragement and positive energy she exuded. I know it was all of these things and more! Maria Whitehead just had an energy that made you want to be around her.

  
I remember being at Wake, when Jen (our coach) told us that Maria had cancer. I was shocked and saddened, but like everyone else, I believed that if anyone could fight it and win, it was Maria (Re). She had been coaching at St. Louis University, but she moved down to Duke to get treatments. My mom worked for Duke Hospital as a nurse and I knew Duke was one of the best cancer hospitals in the country, so I knew Maria would be in good hands. In true Re fashion, she couldn’t stay away from the field hockey field. Despite getting treatments often, she would spend every moment she could out on the field with the Duke team. I loved that about her. Still doing what she loved in the face of adversity.

This was my freshman year. We made it to the final four. We had to play Duke in the semifinals. We were in Louisville and we had practice the day before our game. It was below freezing and everyone was bundled up. Jen comes over and rips her hat off to reveal a shaved head! We were shocked but knew that she had done it for Re who had just had another round of chemo and couldn’t be at the Final Four with her teams. Those gestures and moments in life will always be bigger and more important to me than any game. Not only because it is a symbol of the community at Wake Hockey, but because it reminds me of the importance of life, friendship and living ever moment to the fullest.

But at age 25, Maria lost the battle with cancer. I remember it was the week before our ACC tournament my sophomore year (2006). I remember Jen was a mess. It was like she had lost a part of herself when we lost Maria. We fought hard for the ACC championship and it was all in honor of Re. We proudly took home that championship trophy with Re smiling down on us the whole way!! We barely even had time to celebrate our victory, but we didn’t want it any other way. We wanted to support Jen and attend the Euology and celebration of Maria’s life that took place just mere hours later. We went in the lockerroom, changed, and drove over to Duke Chapel (from UNC) to honor the life of Maria Whitehead. I will never forget that day.




To this day Maria Whitehead leaves an everlasting mark on Wake Forest field hockey. To read more about how her spirit still remains, read this phenomenal blog by one of the current players, Heather Wiley. https://heatherwiley.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/a-firecracker-with-a-never-ending-flame/

I don’t know anyone who knew Maria and didn’t love her. She was the life of the party! She enjoyed life to the fullest and brought all those around her with her on her wonderful journey. She is surely missed.

I wanted to share this post now since Wake Hockey is putting on their annual fundraiser this weekend. All proceeds go to Melanoma Research. Please donate if you can!


I want to close this post by saying thank you to my sponsor Aeonskin who provides me with the best sunscreen I’ve ever used and encourages everyone to protect their skin! I can’t thank them enough for keeping me healthy and allowing me to focus just on hockey because I know I am protected every single day I walk out onto the field.





As spring hits and summer is just around the corner, please enjoy the sunshine and all the happiness it brings! But don’t forget to protect yourself the right way!

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