March 25, 2009

This article appears in the March issue of Lacrosse Magazine, a US Lacrosse publication available exclusively to members. Join today to start your monthly subscription to the sport's premier publication.

Lifestyles: Jaclyn Murphy, Five Years Later

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Jaclyn Murphy celebrates Northwestern's fourth straight NCAA championship with the Wildcats. Murphy, now 14, credits her relationship with the team for helping her through treatment for medulloblastoma.

In 2004, Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a childhood brain cancer. Through her Yorktown Heights, N.Y., rec league coach, Matt Cameron, she was introduced to the Northwestern women's lacrosse team, which helped her pull through treatment. Since then, Murphy and her father, Denis, founded Friends of Jaclyn, a nonprofit that pairs college and high school teams with kids with medulloblastoma. Jaclyn, 14, recently spoke with LM.

Why is it helpful for kids to be in touch with teams?
It's so special because it takes your mind off it. If the team calls you or writes on your Web site, it takes your mind off what is happening. When I was getting calls from Northwestern, I was in a different world. I was in my own little happy place, and I wasn't thinking about what was happening. I wasn't thinking about being in an MRI. When the doctors were drawing blood, I would just think about how strong the players were, and I would be fine. Everything would be fine.

What would they say?
They'd make little music videos and they'd send those to me and I'd just crack up. They'd text me and say, "Jaclyn, feel better! You're in my thoughts and prayers." Or they'd text me, "Did you watch ‘American Idol' last night?" That kind of thing.

Did you ever imagine how big things with FOJ would get?
No, not at all. I remember I was sitting on the couch [at Sloane-Kettering Hospital] just getting a bunch of text messages, and this little girl was sitting next to me and she said, "Who's texting you?" And I said, "Well, I know the Northwestern lacrosse team." After she left - because the doctor called her in - I said, "Dad, we need to get this little girl a team."

What's the story behind FOJ's pink elephant symbol?
When I was diagnosed, I got a bunch of stuffed animals. My cousin Michael gave me this huge elephant, and it was the first elephant I ever got. He told me elephants have great memories and they're strong, and he said, "You're going to be strong again." After that someone told me elephants are good luck too, so ever since then I've collected them. I have about 200.

What are you up to now?
I've been in remission for four or five years now. I'm a freshman in high school, and school's going really well. I'm just working out, trying to get ready for lacrosse season so I can try out for my school team, and just hang out with friends and family.

How long has it been since you were able to play?
Four or five years. I've been working out because I have my days when I don't feel good. When someone's sick and I catch it, I get really sick.

Where would you like to go to college?
Northwestern of course.

What is it like to have your own specially designed stick?
It's really, really cool. I love how it's out there for people to buy, and people can see the Web site.  Northwestern has a specially made black and purple one, so I use that one. It has purple and yellow elephants. It's really cool.

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