Field Hockey

Cancer Touches the Georgetown Field Hockey Family

Oct. 4, 2012

WASHINGTON - "A cancer diagnosis becomes your whole world; your every day, thought, and concern. Life somewhat feels like it is on hold. So many people are affected by cancer... the patient themselves, their family, friends, and communities. I am so thankful for the treatment I was able to receive, and recognize how blessed I am to have my health today. I would not want anyone to go through the many hardships cancer entails and it is only through continued research and awareness that cures will be found. I hope that more lives will be saved every year with the increase in awareness and generous donations, and am so proud of my team and Georgetown athletics for doing their part in fighting cancer!" - Senior Kimberly Keating

Every member of the Georgetown University field hockey program has been personally affected by cancer the past 18 months. Senior field hockey standouts Kimberly Keating's and Laura Thistle's families both dealt with cancer in very similar but different ways. Their battles with cancer intertwined beginning in the fall of 2011 but it all began when Laura's father, Dan Thistle, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in May of 2011.

The day after Dan had his bladder removed at the Perelman Center at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa. is the when the Thistles battle weaved together with Kimberly Keating's.

It was just days after Dan Thistle's bladder removal was complete and the entire Thistle family, wife Chris, son Danny and daughters Laura and Stephanie, were hopeful that their fight with cancer was complete that the Georgetown field hockey family received an email from Kimberly Keating announcing that she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Kimberly was to also receive treatment at the Perelman Center.

The Thistles and Keatings continued to cross paths as each received cancer treatment at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. It was during one of those visits in early 2012 that Dan Thistle was informed by his doctors that his cancer had returned. Days after Laura was informed by her parents that the cancer was back, Kimberly announced to the Georgetown community that her cancer was officially gone.

As the Thistles worked through the news of Dan's cancer returning, Kimberly was dealing with her physical and emotional recovery. Kimberly's parents, Katie and Pierce along with her large family, she is the middle of 10, helped keep her active and moving again.

Dan Thistle passed away on July 13, 2012 after over a year long fight against bladder cancer. Laura contemplated all summer what she should do about the upcoming school year. After discussing with family Laura came to the conclusion that returning to Georgetown and getting back for preseason practice is exactly where she needed to be and right where her father would want her to be.

Just as Laura relied on family to make the decision to return to the field hockey turf Kimberly was praying and looking for inspiration in her recovery. Kimberly's family supported her through every appointment and chemotherapy session and her faith in God also helped ease her well being. "The love of my siblings and their unfailing goodness and humor kept my spirits up in the hardest of times. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge knowing God has a plan in all of this. Even if I am still unaware of why this happened, I truly believe that although it was challenging every day in treatment, and still presents its challenges now, it has given me strength I did not know I had."

All of Georgetown's field hockey coaches, training staff and teammates helped both Laura and Kimberly make their grieving and healing processes easier.

"My coach Tiffany Marsh was very supportive during the summer and said I could take my time coming back once preseason started but I knew that my Dad would have wanted me to go back right away and get in the swing of things," states Laura. "I have shared and experienced so many moments with my teammates that I couldn't imagine not finishing my career at Georgetown with the girls that have been such a huge part of my life for the past four years."

Kimberly also used the coaching staff and her Hoya teammates as a solid support system. "From merely checking in during treatments with a text or card, they let me feel like a part of the team even at a distance. Tiff and the rest of the coaches, as well as all of the trainers - Beth, Shawn, Ms. Michels - have been incredibly understanding and diligent in making my return a smooth transition."

Head Coach Tiffany Marsh saw Laura deal with her father's cancer fight and how her perseverance and inner strength guided her through such trying times. "Watching Laura over the past year and half deal her father's battle with cancer has really shown me the strength and character that this young woman possesses. To be able to channel her emotion on the field and work hard for the sport and program that she loves is inspirational. Her dad was a devoted Georgetown field hockey fan, and I know she's making him very proud."

As for Kimberly and her positive attitude on recovery from cancer, Coach Marsh comments, "Kimmy's journey since last fall has been nothing short of inspirational. Her fighting mentality and positive outlook on life put her in a situation to take a head on approach with her battle with Hodgkins. Having her back on the field this fall has meant so much to our entire program. Her positivity and hard working attitude is infectious and something that motivates us all on a daily basis."

This season all of Laura's teammates have worn a red ribbon to honor Dan Thistle. As Laura explains, "My father was such a huge part of my field hockey career and experience. He came to every game, drove me to every practice, celebrated when my team won, and even cried with me when my team lost. Playing the games makes me feel closer to him because he was such a huge presence in my life when it came to field hockey. Every time I walk out on the field wearing the captain's band, I know he is still watching and supporting Georgetown University field hockey."

With such a personal connection to the fight against cancer Georgetown University's field hockey program is devoted to raising money for cancer awareness and research. It will be the third straight year the Hoyas have identified one game on their schedule as a Stick-it-to-Cancer fundraising game. This season the game will be Friday, October 5 against Rutgers at 7 p.m. Over $10,000 in donations has already been received and Georgetown hopes to raise even more. The best way to make a donation is on-line by visiting:

All proceeds collected will benefit the National Foundation for Cancer Research. The NFCR has funded over 50 research laboratories worldwide and since its inception in 1973 has supported cancer research, public education relating to prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and ultimately, a cure for cancer.

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