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The Virginia women’s lacrosse team opens a three-game homestand tonight (Wed., March 31), hosting Old Dominion at 7 p.m. The Cavaliers will then face No. 18 Boston College on Saturday at 1 p.m., before taking on Harvard Monday at 7 p.m. Prior to Saturday’s game, Virginia’s seven seniors will be honored as a part of Senior Day.

If you were to ask senior Marye Kellermann what she plans to do with her future, the politics and history major would not be able to give a definite answer. But when asked what she’ll be doing in October, her plans are set.

“I want to run the Baltimore Marathon with my sister,” Kellermann said.

The motivation stems through more than just bonding time for the sisters, though.

“We want to run it for my dad and to help raise money for pancreatic cancer research,” Kellermann added. “My cousin had sponsors help her form an organization called PANCAN when she ran it, and she raised over $10,000 by herself. My sister and I are going to run for PANCAN too.”

The Kellermann sisters’ interest in helping to raise money for pancreatic cancer stems from their father’s involvement with the disease. Already living with Parkinson’s disease, Kellermann’s father, John, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last winter.

Since then, he’s not only battled the disease, but has become a major advocate for stem cell research, helping to spread awareness about it and what it can do to help people with illnesses such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and cancer. For his contributions and courageous battle, John was honored with the 2009 National Stem Cell Summit Award for inspiration.

“It was really cool,” Kellermann said. “Michael J. Fox won the award in 2007, so it was kind of a big deal. My father was very deserving of the award.”

Dealing with the diagnosis has been anything but easy though.

“It was hard at first,” Kellermann said. “My grandfather came down to pick me up and bring me home, and that’s when my dad told us. We were all really upset and when I came back to school, the coaches and team were upset too.

“The coaches told me to take as much time as I needed. They said they were willing to work with me and understood that spending time with my dad was more important than anything else.”

It was the next week that the Kellermann’s learned the extent of the cancer – a disease that holds a 10-percent survival rate.

“When I went home that next week, that was when we found out the extent of my dad’s diagnosis,” Kellermann said. “Fortunately, it hadn’t spread anywhere other than his pancreas, which is really rare.”

Even with the good news, Kellermann took last summer to spend at the beach with her father. Between working and keeping in shape for this year’s lacrosse season, Kellermann would take him to chemotherapy and out to dinner.

“We’d just hang out and spend time together,” Kellermann said. “It was really cool to spend the summer with him.”

Now, a little over a year after his initial diagnosis, John is living cancer free.

“He had a clean scan last month,” Kellermann said. “He had his whole body scanned in the fall and they told him there might be a little part of the cancer left in his pancreas. But he got another scan done a month ago and it was clean, so I guess technically he’s cancer free. Not in remission, but cancer free.”

The news falls at the beginning of Kellermann’s final season on Grounds. If it weren’t for the support system of the entire lacrosse team, Kellermann admits she’s not sure she would still be here to finish up what she started almost four years ago.

“I remember last season didn’t really go the way we wanted it to,” Kellermann said. “But I remember Coach Myers saying at the end of the season that one of the most important things that came out of the year was Mr. Kellermann getting better.

“I think that kind of put things in perspective. Every day we would stress about the little things. We took things for granted and I think everything that happened kind of changed the way people looked at things.

“Cancer makes everything else seem so insignificant.”

Now in her final season as a Cavalier, Kellermann has learned the benefits of having a team by your side through thick and thin and the advantages that it can make to your life.

“It’s an experience that not a lot of people get to have,” Kellermann said. “Having a team and having coaches that guide you through college, it teaches you lessons that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.”

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