Rest in Peace Cynthia
August 10, 2012
I knew we were in trouble. Bottom of the last inning, game tied, runner at third, my daughter was on the mound with two stikes on C-Rod. I knew her only by nick name then, but is was immediately evident what made Cynthia different and special; she was strong and she was happy. And it showed as she hammered a ball to right field to score the winning run. Weeks later she went from adversary to team mate and it was much more fun coaching the strong happy girl than competing against her.
Cynthia’s battle began as this organization was in its’ infancy. It was at the very first Oakland Bandit practice ever that she turned to the coaches, including her father Julio, and asked them to go easy on her that day. Cynthia didn’t do “easy”. This was a warning sign. Within a day she had been diagnosed with leukemia. And she approached it as she did everything else in her life, with amazing strength and a smile on her face. She always said, “the Bandits saved my life”. And when she showed up at a game in her pajamas straight from the hospital and was welcomed into the dugout by her team mates with hugs and smiles, it seemed like she was right. Nearly a year after the diagnosis Cynthia had beaten the leukemia into remission and in the USSSA World Series, she played in a Bandit’s uniform for the first time. The picture with her dad Julio (below) was taken moments after the game.
Cynthia used to wear a shirt that read, “Cancer Sucks”. This is true. And eventually the cancer came back and as strong as Cynthia was, cancer was stronger. It wore her down until she couldn’t fight anymore and on August 10th 2012, Cynthia passed away.
Here is what I always remember about Cynthia and her fight with cancer. I never heard her say a word about feeling sorry for herself. Never once. Instead I saw her making plans to help other young people in their fight. The source of her strength, optimism and giving nature are not hard to find. If there are more loving people than Cynthia’s parents Ericka and Julio, I have not found them. No one could have fought harder for their child. No one could have done more. And no one could have been more selfless. As Ericka spear headed a drive to find a bone marrow match for Cynthia, she always took comfort that even if a match for Cynthia was not found, her efforts were finding matches for other children; children she would never meet, never know.
No one worked harder for the Bandits than Julio and Ericka. Despite the fact that Cynthia was on the field for just a few fleeting minutes, Julio was always there to coach and Ericka has been our most successful fund raiser. When asked why, why was a softball team so important, Ericka would respond simply, “So all the little brown girls like Cynthia have a place to play.” Then she would then look at me and add, with a twinkle in her eye, “Don’t worry, Sarah is a little brown girl”.
The picture at the top of this post was taken during the first summer the girls all began playing together. They had just played their sixth game in two days in 100 + degrees. The tournament folks were kind enough to turn on the sprinklers for them. I love this picture. It is how I will always remember Cynthia; strong and happy.
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