Meghan “Man Up”

Meghan Redenbach didn’t want to be known as “the girl with cancer.” To those who knew the 15-year-old Royalton- Hartland volleyball player, she will be remembered as much more than that. Meghan died  two years and 12 days after she had been diagnosed with a rare malignant tumor in her ovaries called fibrosarcoma. The daughter of Mike and Nancy Redenbach of Gasport and younger sister of Nick, she was well-known in volleyball circles, playing with Roy-Hart and the Niagara Frontier Volleyball Club. Last summer, she spoke to her high school coach, Bill Holahan.

“Coach, I’m going to beat this,” she told him.

“I looked back and said, ‘I know, Meg,’ ” he replied.

And despite her untimely death, she did beat it, said Holahan, who met her when she was a feisty, playful seventh-grader and taught her history in the eighth grade. “She was sent here to be a symbol of how you can overcome things,” he said. “She was always very positive.” Meghan beat cancer by coming to school in eighth grade when she was getting treatment, even though at times she was so tired she couldn’t lift her head off the desk.

She beat it by postponing a second surgery several days until after the end of volleyball season her freshman year.

She beat it by getting to practice and games this year despite dealing with the return of the disease that sapped her strength.

She beat it when she had Roswell Park representatives come to her school in November to talk about cancer.

She beat it by always not giving up her dreams, including getting a Volkswagen “Punch Bug” when she turned 16.

She beat it by jumping enthusiastically into Carly’s Club, which offers support programs for children diagnosed with cancer and their families, and raises money for research.

She beat it by sharing her story with others.

She beat it when she and her family went to Hawaii last summer as part of the Make A Wish program, and her family was able to spend the week watching her have fun.

“I think Meghan was one of the most incredible people I knew,” said Robin Hace, coordinator of Carly’s Club. “She was an inspired and brave fighter, and she will forever be one of my heroes and inspirations for what I do every day.”

Holahan’s wife, Debbie, taught Meghan English this year. She found Meghan remarkably insightful, and she loved literature, stories and characters.

“You cannot express into words the impact this girl has had,” Debbie Holahan said.

She tutored Meghan when she was too ill to come to school and sometimes would read to her when she couldn’t read herself. She also liked sad stories. When Holahan asked her why, she told her, “It’s good to hear that other people have it worse than I do.”

“She loved life so much, she just wanted to be a normal kid,” Holahan said.

It was volleyball that gave her the chance to be a normal kid. The court was her safe haven and her escape. She played when she was able, and when she wasn’t she went to the games and coached and cheered for teammates, always exhorting them to do better.

All this from the teenager who did not want to be known as the girl who had cancer.

“I want to tell her, she will be remembered for her courage and how she taught everybody the value of life, not as the girl who had cancer,” Debbie Holahan said.

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