By Madison Newcombe

I was in such shock that I couldn’t even cry.

When something like cancer hits your family, life changes forever. No one can give you a blueprint of how to go about it. It’s a devastating experience for everyone involved.

In my case, cancer entered my family when I was in eighth grade. Seemingly out of nowhere, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.

The next year and a half would be a struggle of emotions and heartache as my mom fought for her life.

Sadly, she didn’t make it through, passing in my freshman year of high school.

These 18 months have shaped my life in more ways than I could ever describe. The tragedy has taken me to rock bottom, but her perseverance & determination will always inspire me.

To this day, a lot of people continue to help me cope with the experience. And the sport I loved, volleyball, became my safe haven during a time of fear and stress. Through it all, it’s made me who I am.

My name is Madison Newcombe and as weird as it may sound, a certain part of me feels grateful for having had an experience like this.

A Shocking Discovery

I remember the day we knew something was wrong. I was at home by myself when my mom came back from the gym.

She said she had passed out. It was a bit surprising. You see, my mom was an extremely healthy person. Not only was she in great shape, but she never got sick. Never.

Once my dad got back, he dropped me and my sister off at volleyball practice, and took my mom to the hospital for further check-ups.

I didn’t make much of it and was pretty sure that everything was fine.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, with chances of survival not looking very good.

The shock was just instantaneous. There was so much to wrap my head around that I couldn’t even cry. My emotions were just all over the place.

After the diagnosis, I had to figure out a way how to go back to living a “normal” thirteen-year-old life, which seemed impossible.

But through the support of my family, teammates, and volleyball, I managed to cope.

An Unforgettable Team

At first, it was just me and my thoughts. I obviously had my family, but at school or at practice, I had no one to talk about it with. We didn’t tell anyone. No one knew. It was such a hard thing for me, especially at that age.

When I finally opened up to my teammates a few weeks later, they were unbelievably supportive. They were all pretty emotional and gave me long and heartfelt hugs. It was just an amazing showing of how much I meant to them.

They went as far as making t-shirts for my mom and throwing this big party. It was incredible. To this day, I can’t express how grateful I am for their support through that time.

Volleyball was just kind of an escape for me during that phase. For a few times every week, I was able to go out and do something physical and active to kind of melt the stress a bit. Volleyball was my happy place, as it still continues to be. It was just therapeutic then.


No matter if she had to go through chemo or endure the side effects that came with the cancer, she remained positive throughout. She never got too down or let us see the distraught in her. And it wasn’t a show. She was just a brave woman; determined and driven until the very end.

The Greatest Fighter

My mother was an amazing person. One of the things I will always remember her by is her incredibly positive attitude during this journey.

No matter if she had to go through chemo or endure the side effects that came with the cancer, she remained positive throughout. She never got too down or let us see the distraught in her. And it wasn’t a show.  She was just a brave woman; determined and driven until the very end.

Sadly, that very end came during my freshman year of high school, about a year and a half after her diagnosis.

We got to say goodbye to her right at home. Some people may consider this to be even harder, but that wasn’t the case for us.

We all had our moment with her, getting our last hugs and special goodbyes in, and she passed in a place that she was comfortable in.

But… what is next? How do we go forward from here? Those were the questions I started to ask myself.

The answer came in an impromptu trip to San Diego, where I would come to two realizations that would change my future.


It was my dad’s call to go on that trip after my mom passed. He said that we just needed to get away for a while and do whatever we wanted.

So, my sister, my dad, and I made that trip south to San Diego, a place that I always loved.

I was already familiar with San Diego but now, it was also a place that reminded me of my mother. And while San Marcos wasn’t the specific place we went to, I still knew that this is the area I want to live in someday. This was realization #1.

My second one came a bit later.

Through this whole experience, I learned how important it is to check on my own needs as well. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean this in a selfish way. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of someone else. You can never neglect your health. And taking this trip to San Diego made me aware of that.

Overall, it was important to understand that life wouldn’t stop, even though things had been so hectic.

Thank You, Mom

Eight years later, I’m in a great place. I’m a senior at Cal State San Marcos, play volleyball, and am surrounded by some of the best coaches and teammates anyone could ask for.

Sure, it still hits me quite often. My mom isn’t there for those big moments. The awards. The games that she always would be at. The big milestones. She can’t be here for those and that will never be easy.

However, as I said at the beginning, I still feel grateful.

Grateful that my mom motivated me to become the best version of myself at everything I do.

Grateful to have had a special moment with her before she passed.

Grateful that her death allowed me to mature and grow a lot.

Grateful for all the amazing support, especially from my family and teammates over the years.

So yes, as weird as it sounds, I’m grateful for so many things that came through this experience.

But most of all, I am grateful to have had such a loving, wonderful mother.  

I miss you, mom!


Powered by