Dig Deep, Beat Cancer

Last Saturday night, volleyball fans, former players, friends, and family came from near and far to celebrate Emily.  The festivities started at 5:30 in the sauna that is more commonly known as Ducey Gymnasium (seriously, in the history of the gym’s existence the temperature has never dropped below 93 degrees).  There were delicious homemade desserts for sale along with awesome “Fight Like a Girl” wristbands and t-shirts.  Not only did most of the crowd end up sporting one these shirts in Emily’s honor, but so did the entire Cal Lu volleyball team.  The CMS Athenas also wore special warm-ups emblazoned with “EmBen #11” on the back.

The Athenas put up a strong effort but the nationally ranked Cal Lu Regals came away victorious.  Some of the crowd even got in on the volleyball action by participating in a half time serving competition.  There was no single champion from the serving competition, but when 20+ people are serving at the same time with balls flying everywhere and only one person gets hit in the head (that I saw), that is a victory in itself.

All in all, the night was a huge success raising $4,000 to help cover Emily’s medical expenses.  The Cal Lu community was so kind and generous as they rallied to support one of CMS’ own.  Ten women who played with Emily during her time at CMS returned for the evening to sit in the stands with her and cheer on the new generation of Athenas.  Countless other friends made the trek to Claremont from all across Northern and Southern California as well.  The fun isn’t over yet, though.  This weekend there are six more Dig Deep, Beat Cancer volleyball matches being played throughout the SCIAC conference to raise awareness about lung cancer and Emily’s fight.

Thanks so much to everyone who came out last weekend with bright smiles and big spirit.  The night would not have been as memorable without you.  There are a few folks that deserve special recognition for being extra awesome, however.  A super BIG thank you goes out to:

  • John Brankse & Buddy’s All-Stars, Inc. for donating the Fight Like a Girl t-shirts
  • Wright Design for donating the EmBen #11 warm up shirts
  • Kelli Smith for making all of the delicious desserts
  • Heather Semelmacher and Kyra Ray for handling the sales of all those t-shirts and bracelets
  • Darby Anderson & Jill’s Legacy for supporting and promoting the event from afar and sending all of the great swag to help raise awareness for Emily, Jill, and everyone battling lung cancer
  • Michael Preston for his exceptional emceeing of the entire night
  • Emily Scalmanini and Erin Graves for running their little own table where people could color or write message to Emily
  • Mike Haas for his ongoing support and generosity towards all things related to Athena Volleyball
  • Kellie Roesel for being willing to switch her own team’s schedule around to accommodate this event and jumping on board to support Emily 110%
  • Kurt Vlasich for rallying the SCIAC teams to Emily’s cause and working so hard on the logistics and all of the little details to make the night so great
  • Diana Graves for first envisioning this event to support and honor Emily so many months ago, and working tirelessly to bring it to fruition.  Also, for being such a dedicated friend and coach to so many lucky Athenas over the years 🙂

The BEST Ball Boys

While in college, Miles and his best buddy Josh worked as the official ball boys for CMS Volleyball.  They wore matching volleyball “Game Day” t-shirts, complete with festive and/or themed accessories that changed weekly.  These #1 and #2 Athena fans made sure that every player always had a volleyball in hand when needed, and they could be counted on for the highest fives (literally) after every game.  Word on the street is that this spirited and dynamic ball shagging duo might be making an on court appearance at the Dig Deep, Beat Cancer event tomorrow – OMG WHAT?!?!  Yes, we can only keep our fingers crossed and hope.  Miles, Josh, and our beloved Emily will all be in Claremont to support the Athenas and Regals who have joined Emily’s fight against lung cancer.  It would be oh so nice to see you there too 🙂

Athenas for Emily

First and foremost, the Claremont community is about connections and the family that you build.  Even though we never had the opportunity to take the court with Emily, she is a fellow Athena and that makes her important to us.  She made a huge contribution to Athena volleyball and was a big part of our success during the 2002 – 2006 years. When one Athena is hurting, it affects us all.  We are all a part of this fight and are committed to doing as much as possible to help Emily’s cause.  We stand behind Emily, Miles, and their families every step of the way.  This “Dig Deep, Beat Cancer” event goes to show how strong the CMS and broader Claremont communities are, and just how dedicated the Claremont family is to helping Emily beat lung cancer, big time.

-Katrina Lau, CMS Athena, Class of 2013

The entire CMS Athena volleyball squad is looking forward to seeing YOU at the game this Saturday as they dig deep to beat cancer.

Gettin’ Closer + Highlight Reel

We are now just two short weeks away from the SCIAC “Dig Deep, Beat Cancer” event honoring our one and only Emily.  On Saturday, October 20th the CMS Athenas will take on the Cal Lutheran Regals in a heated volleyball match.  There will also be fun activities, awesome swag, and great company for everyone in attendance.  For more information check out the new Dig Deep, Beat Cancer tab on the EmBen blog.  You can also RSVP to this great event on Facebook.  Tell all of your friends – we’re going to pack Ducey Gym to the max and help Emily beat lung cancer, big time!

To help get you in the spirit for the night, here are some clips compiled by our dear friend Stevie-G back from when Emily was a senior at CMS.  Enjoy!

Look At That Lung!

Exactly one week ago (8/31) we received the wonderful news that Emily’s tumor had dramatically shrunk after the first two rounds of chemotherapy.  Although Emily felt her breathing had improved and we’d hoped for good results, we never anticipated such a significant decrease.  The news brought much joy, relief, and renewed energy.

Over the weekend, we attended the wedding of our friends Danny and Karlen.  Both Danny and Karlen work with Emily at Western Asset.  In a demonstration of support, all members of the wedding party, including the bride, wore “Fight like a Girl” lung cancer bracelets.  It didn’t stop there though: the wait staff, photographers, and band members all wore matching bracelets as well.  Emily was overwhelmed by the gesture of support.  She recovered, though, and with both of us still thrilled by the good news, we were able to unwind and get after it on the dance floor (aka random, long appendages flying in all directions, lots and lots of sweating, etc).  All in all, it was a terrific weekend and a great lead in to the third round of chemotherapy.

On Wednesday (9/5), Emily had an appointment with her oncologist.  Dr. Reckamp was quite pleased with the results.  She even printed photos of the “before” and “after” CT scans of Emily’s lungs. A quick overview:

  • The tumor dimensions shrunk from 43mm x 35mm to 22mm x 19mm.  A large decrease is a great sign that the body is responding to the chemotherapy, especially the Alimta (the potential maintenance chemo)
  • The fluid in the lung dissipated.  There is still some cancer in the lining; however, it is minimal and Emily has her sights on it
  • The lymph nodes have all decreased by nearly the same percentage as the tumor

Dr. Reckamp ordered two more rounds of chemotherapy, after which Emily will have another CT scan done to track the progress.  The doctor attempted to reel in expectations for the next rounds, stating that any decrease in tumor size would be a success.  However, Emily smells blood.  For anyone who watched her play volleyball, Emily plays only one way: attack and kill.  You might as well call the tumor ‘Wilson’ because it’s about to get spiked.

Following the appointment, Emily rushed out of the office to ask the receptionist “Have you seen the photo of my beautiful lungs?!”  For the next few minutes, Emily, beaming from ear to ear, broke down the scans for the woman.  Emily’s enthusiasm and love of life just exuded naturally, and the lady could not help but smile.  It is no surprise that all of the receptionists already know her name, greeting Emily the second she walks into the hospital, and that the doctors and nurses all hug her when they enter the room.  In fact, just the other day as Emily entered the CT scan room, a nurse came running in and said “I saw your name on the chart and I wanted to come down and wish you the best of luck!”  As she hugged Emily, the woman looked at me and said, “She is just so adorable.  I have been praying for her every night.”  Emily’s spirit and determination is contagious.

The third round of chemotherapy went well.  During the injection, we watched episodes of Parks and Recreation and while the poisonous drugs were injected into her, Emily let out belly laughs one after another.  The third round has been a little tougher on her body though.  She has experienced increased nausea, but Emily just keeps saying, “If I feel like this imagine what it is doing to the tumor.”

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.  Each night we reflect on all the support she is receiving.   Emily is not fighting this tumor alone; rather she has the strength of hundreds attacking this little 22mm x 19mm mass.

Love to all.  Live in the moment.


Save the Date – 10/20/2012

Not so very long ago Emily was a star player on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) volleyball team.  CMS is a member of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) which named Emily ‘Rookie of the Year’ her freshman season and then to the All-SCIAC conference team every season after that.

It’s a SCIAC tradition that one week each season all of the volleyball teams put aside their rivalries and work together to raise money for cancer research.  Yesterday, the conference coaches voted unanimously to dedicate this year’s special effort to Emily’s fight against lung cancer.  On October 27th, teams across the conference will join forces to support Emily and to celebrate people across the world battling cancer.  As one coach laughingly put it, “That left hand of hers caused us a lot of problems…we’re in!”  All proceeds will go to the EmBen Kicks Cancer fund.

The CMS Athenas will be away at Occidental College that night, so CMS will also host its own event on Saturday, October 20thCMS invites you to join Athenas Volleyball and Stags Basketball athletes, past and present, as we support Emily and Miles in a true show of teamwork and solidarity.  Please mark your calendars for a 6PM showdown with nationally ranked Cal Lutheran University on October 20th at Ducey Gym, followed by a dessert reception and other fun shenanigans.  Stay tuned for additional details..