Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


March 20, 2014

In bald support

Coaches shave off the top for swimmer fighting cancer


Lucy Frey, an 18-year-old teammate from Andover, said the Hurricanes are as much about being a supportive network as they are about being a competitive swim team. They are “like my backbone, best friends,” Frey said of her teammates. And together, the team has lent its figurative shoulder to Splaine.

“I was so glad she had somewhere she could come, even if it was just to talk to us or swim, just to get everything out there,” Frey said. “I’m happy she has all of us to help her through it.”

Splaine knew something was amiss last October when her strength took a dive, just as lumps started forming on her neck, she said.

“I could train, but I couldn’t race as well anymore,” she recalled. “I didn’t feel sick. I actually didn’t mentally feel like this was real.”

The news was like “a punch in the gut, completely out of the blue,” her father, David Splaine, said.

“She had always been really tough, really healthy, and she would have been the last person in the world you would have thought would have this,” he said.

Just before Thanksgiving, Splaine began her first of six, month-long cycles of chemotherapy. While each round of treatment initially takes her out of commission, within days she’s back in the pool at the YMCA in Andover, regaining her strength and remaining competitive, her coaches said.

The day before her final round of treatment was scheduled to start, Splaine’s coaches showed he just how much they appreciated her determination. They gave her an electric trimmer and bowed their heads.

Within minutes, Cronin and Reilly were bald, both feeling their heads and laughing.

Reilly who lives in North Andover, said Splaine is a coach’s perfect team member.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Pictures of the Week