A young woman making a dive for a volley ball

Senior Night - A Blessing

When I was first diagnosed with lung cancer, my daughter Karley was only 7 years old. Shortly after she turned eight, her father and I sat her down and explained heaven. She coined it the "pasta party". I still love the innocence of her way of thinking at such a young age. For ten years now, she has lived each day knowing that when she goes to sleep, goes to school or hangs with her friends, her mom could join the "pasta party".

Karley's mental and physical strength

I'm not sure about the rest of my readers, but there is no way I would be okay learning my mom had 12-18 months to live...for 10 years. Living every day with that makes her the biggest hero I know.

Her faith in God is amazing. Her compassion for others is incredible. So, I know that wherever she goes or whatever she does in the future, she will be a true leader.

Co-parenting with stage 4 lung cancer

When she was 5, she started Karate. John and I went to every event, we traveled a lot. When Karley turned 6, her father and I split up and co-parenting became a big adjustment. When she was 7, I was 33 and diagnosed with lung cancer, stage 4. At the age of 8, she really learned about death. She continued in Karate but was very tall for her age, so she began learning to play beach volleyball with her father. Her father is between 6'6" and 6'7". I am merely 5'4".

The beginning of Karley's passion for volleyball

He is an amazing dad. I was still working and going through so much after being diagnosed with lung cancer, he took on a lot of responsibility when it came to her mental health. He got her involved in something she loved. She enrolled in a club volleyball team and we did travel club until high school when it dissolved.

Her accomplishments in middle and high school

Karley also played volleyball for her middle school and high school. She's a senior now and still loves the game. After leading her 8th grade team as captain, winning the county championship, her father and I both knew that she was fire on the court. So many coaches looked past that. The high school coach noticed her, and he ran a tough program. He invited her to start practicing with the high school in 7th grade.

When she began playing for Glynn Academy (GA), the coach was offered another position coaching college volleyball so he left. Since he left, GA has had a different coach every year. I would get frustrated because they didn't see her leadership and skills as we knew them. She was MVP freshman year and Offensive Specialsit of the year in JV her sophomore year. She should've been playing varsity, but her position was full and she wouldn't have any time on the court.

Senior night

Her dedication to the game is unfathomable. So, after junior year splitting her time on the court, she is finally a senior. I used to go to senior nights each year, thinking I would never make it to that point. I wouldn't be able to walk out on the court with her and her father as they presented her flowers and honored her with a dedication booth and mid game presentation. It reminded me of Homecoming Court in high school, only a billion times better.

As we walked out individually, there were 4 seniors in all. We were the second to walk out. Karley answered a series of questions before the program, and as we walked out the coaches read them aloud.

I don't remember much of everything said, but when the speaker said, "When Karley was asked who her biggest inspirations are, she said her parents". You can pinpoint on video or in pictures the exact moment I could no longer hold the tears back. And when her best friend, Riley, was asked what her favorite thing she has taken from volleyball, she said, "the friendships she made". At that moment she and Karley locked eyes. More crying for me. Riley has accepted a scholarship to Tulane and will be leaving in January, which devastated Karley.

Looking into the future

But the season isn't over yet, thanks to these girls and their newest coach. I will write about that another day. I've seen so many accomplishments, and it just keeps getting better.

I feel survivor's guilt a lot. Everyone says I shouldn't, but on senior night, crying tears of bittersweet joy, I opened Facebook to another lung cancer death. But, this one was different. This one hit home. Once again, I want to dedicate a whole article to her. Besides the joy for Karley, I read such tragic news when sitting down, I was a hot mess of tears and frustration.

Introducing Meghann

I'd like to to start introducing Meghann into these stories. After John and I split, he dated around, and eventually fell in love with this incredible woman named Meghann. We had a rocky start, but there is no one in this world who I would've wanted as a female role model to Karley if something were to happen to me. I asked her to walk with us senior night, of course she refused because that's the kind of person she is.

Meghann is so thoughtful and full of grace. At this point, I consider her family. A bunch of Neundorfers. Meghann loves and cares for Karley so much, it gives me the most peace I could have. I told her to watch the movie "Stepmom", since it reminds me of us. Of course, she already watched it.

She deserves a lot of credit when it comes to raising Karley in her high school years. She even helps me when I get frustrated. Therefore, when I bring her up, you will know who she is.

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