CofC coach

Southern Conference Champions - 2007

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CofC coach

Postby NCTerrier on Thu Jan 31, 2008 4:50 pm

thought this was worth passing along...

Charleston coach balances daughter's rare cancer with season
AP Sports Writer
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — College of Charleston coach John Pawlowski sits in his team's stadium as baseballs are tossed on the field, thumping against leather gloves.
Pawlowski's mind drifts from bunts and base hits to a hospital room in Georgia where his 13-year-old daughter, Mary-Louise, receives chemotherapy for a rare form of childhood cancer.
"It knocked me to my knees," he said this week.
The coach clearly has a lot on his mind with the Cougars' season only three weeks away.
Mary-Louise followed her father's lead as an athlete, playing volleyball and acquiring her dad's lifelong devotion to baseball. She attended as many Cougar games as she could.
In November, she felt pain in her side and had a cough that would not go away. X-rays showed a small spot on her lungs and doctors treated her for pneumonia.
Medicine and rest eased the problem, but more pictures were taken. The results were a parent's worst fear — Mary-Louise's tumor had doubled in size. The family was told she had a cancer known as primitive neuroectodermal tumors, or PNET.
"I was scared," Pawlowski said. "We had no idea who the enemy was."
The most difficult part, he said, was telling his energetic girl she had a life-threatening condition. Pawlowski said her reaction made things easier.
"She's accepted it and she knows what she's got to do. She's in a battle," Pawlowski said. "There's no doubt in her mind and our family's mind that we're going to beat it."
Mary-Louise undergoes chemotherapy sessions twice a week in Augusta, Ga. She'll eventually need radiation treatments and surgery to remove the affected areas.
Pawlowski makes the two-and-a-half hour drive often. Of course, those trips came during the offseason.
In eight previous years, Pawlowski has built the Cougars into a mid-major baseball power. They've won either the Southern Conference regular season or tournament title the past four years, three times reaching the NCAA tournament. In 2006, Charleston pulled off a feat few mid-majors have, advancing to the NCAA super regionals after winning a regional in Kentucky.
Until last fall, Pawlowski was fully focused on Charleston returning to the NCAAs, something it missed last spring after three consecutive trips.
"When you go through something as life-changing, as life altering as this, no matter what job you have, you have to find out where the balance is," Pawlowski said. "For me personally, when I'm out here on the field and I put on the uniform, it's a release."
"Out here, it's a symbol to me of why we're fighting this battle," Pawlowski said. "Like today, the sun's shining. What a beautiful day, and that's why we're fighting for Mary-Louise, and any people fighting cancer."
Pawlowski, Charleston players, coaches and administrators understand the he may get pulled away at a moment's notice. He spoke with his team soon after his daughter's diagnosis, pledging not to let his family problems distract the Cougars.
He has found universal support. He had a few purple and white wristbands made with "We R Praying 4 MLP" for his family to wear — the Pawlowski's have two other daughters, 15-year-old Christine and 7-year-old Jenny. His players asked for wristbands, too, and the purple and white swirls are easily visible against the team's maroon workout shirts.
The chemotherapy has not been easy Mary-Louise. Sometimes, she's too tired to leave the house. "It's an absolute roller coaster ride. You strap yourself in and hold on," her father says.
As Pawlowski shared his family's story, more people have asked to help or called with best wishes. "We've been absolutely overwhelmed," the coach said.
He's set up a Web site, where people can purchase an MLP wristband, or find out more about Mary-Louise's condition.
Pawlowski, a marathon runner, had raised money for the Cougars program through his long-distance running. His next fundraiser will be for new foundation. The plan is for Mary-Louise to pick a deserving charity or cancer center to donate the proceeds.
"This is a chapter that's being written in my life, my daughter's life, my family's life that we don't know what's going to be written next," he said. "I don't know what tomorrow's going to bring. But I'm not afraid anymore."

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