Jackie Gebhart, the 12-year associate head coach of the University of Maine women’s soccer team, has lived life to the fullest. She will continue to do so as she battles cancer.
“My goal is to beat this,” said a determined and defiant Gebhart.
She loves the outdoors and the state of Maine.
She has hiked Mount Katahdin eight times, she has hiked the Grand Canyon, she skis and snowboards and is an avid kayaker who has paddled the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race.
Gebhart always has a twinkle in her eye and boundless energy. She has tremendous passion for soccer and life.
She is witty and a joy to be around. She enhances your quality of life.
Her optimism and positive outlook on life have haven’t been the least bit diminished by a diagnosis of stage-four melanoma that will require surgery to remove a tumor and a vertebra in Gebhart’s back on Feb. 6 in Boston.
In fact, she says she has been more emotionally impacted by the support she has received than the cancer diagnosis.
She has heard from the local community, friends, players she has coached and people across the world who have learned of her plight on the Facebook Web site.
One fundraiser for Gebhart involves purchasing an orange bracelet for $5 from Tanya Adorno, the athletic events coordinator at Maine and a former Black Bear goalkeeper.
“Tanya has been amazing,” said the 35-year-old Gebhart.
Former University of Maine women’s basketball coach Sharon Versyp and former field hockey coach Terry Kix, who are at Purdue University as the basketball coach and director of basketball operations, respectively, unveiled the bracelets along with the Purdue University players during warmups at a recent game against Illi-nois.
Gebhart said the support she has received has been nothing short of overwhelming.
“I’ve heard from people I don’t even know who said I talked to them for half an hour at a soccer camp and, because of [that conversation], they went on to play in college and have a great experience,” said Gebhart.
She has already endured five weeks of radiation and she has changed her lifestyle, cutting out everything with pesticides, growth hormones or any kind of additives including foods, soaps and lotions. She has removed red meat and dairy products from her diet.
Her back still bothers her but not nearly as much as it did before the radiation. She has received positive news that the cancer hasn’t spread.
She will work out in preparation for her surgery and a radiation treatment during it.
They will remove the cancerous vertebra and “restructure my spine.”
“I want to get myself as strong as I can to help with the rehab. The stronger I am and the more positive I am, the better chance I have at a full recovery,” said Gebhart.
The Ronkonkoma, N.Y., native has high praise for the care she received at CancerCare of Maine in Bangor.
She is upbeat about her prognosis. She said they intend to get her walking the day after surgery and hope to send her home within seven days.
In fact, she said “Don’t count me out” for April’s Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race.
I never would. She’s an inspiration. She’s a winner.
Anyone interested in obtaining a Jackie Geb’s Fight bracelet can do so by making a check out to Jackie Gebhart and sending it to Tanya Adorno, 60 Park Street, Apt. A, Orono, ME 04473. If you want to buy several, please add a dollar or two to help pay for postage.