BY Jim Fenton
She was initially diagnosed with thyroid cancer as a high school sophomore four years ago next month.
MacKenzie Greenberg, now a student and field hockey player at Stonehill College, has gone through several surgeries and radioactive iodine treatments to deal with the disease as it continued to invade her body.
Through all the difficult times since that original diagnosis on April 9, 2013, Greenberg decided she wanted to help others who are coping with cancer.
First, while at Hopedale High School, she wrote a 132-page book entitled, "Living With The Ribbon,'' that details her ongoing cancer fight.
Greenberg is also part of Athletes Crush Cancer and has given speeches on the subject.
Now, she is putting together a 5-kilometer walk/run on the Stonehill campus to benefit childhood cancer awareness with the money raised going to the Arms Wide Open Childhood Cancer Fund.
The event, which has a $20 entry fee and is sponsored by the Skyhawks field hockey team and Athletes Crush Cancer, takes place on Sunday, March 26 at 11 a.m., beginning and ending at the Shields Science Center at Stonehill.
Greenberg, a sophomore who appeared in all 20 field hockey games and started 19 as a defender for the Skyhawks last fall despite her illness, is putting together the fund-raising walk/run with the help of her coach, Susan Ciufo.
"When I was diagnosed, I never imagined myself being here today doing any of these kinds of things,'' said Greenberg. "I was very private about the diagnosis and doing the treatment and everything like that.
"With different things I've been exposed to in coming up on four years now, I've seen people who have it significantly worse and it puts what I have in perspective seeing what everybody else is going through.''
The idea of raising money and awareness came to Greenberg last September when she attended CareFest in Washington D.C., with Athletes Crush Cancer and heard how those touched by the disease were giving back.
"It was a huge exposure event with 2,000 people there who all who had been affected by the disease,'' said Greenberg. "They talked about different ways they tried to raise funds.
"I didn't know whether I was going to do it at home or here at Stonehill. I talked to my mom (Kim) and she suggested a 5K. I came to Sue with very little time to put this together.
"It's a way to get athletics involved and a larger population involved.''
Ciufo said that they are hoping to attract 200-300 participants in what will turn into an annual event, and other teams on campus as well as rival Northeast-10 field hockey teams have shown support.
"So far, the whole athletic department has been helping us and making sure they're getting their teams involved,'' said Ciufo. "What's absolutely awesome is the interest we've had from the NE-10 teams, the other field hockey teams, whether they're able to make it or find ways to donate.
"One team is trying to move their spring tournament so they can come all the way from Long Island to take part. Just the support we have from other people just because they know MacKenzie's story goes far beyond being 'enemies' on the field and shows that we are all one field hockey community.''
Greenberg said she finished another round of treatment in the middle of January and will soon be doing more scans to check on the cancer.
For now, Greenberg, a biology and psychology major at Stonehill, is focused on making people aware of childhood cancer and raising some money through the walk/run on campus.
"I think it's a true testament to her character,'' said Ciufo. "She's a real special kid and has gone through so much with her disease. What's she's able to give to the team in terms of her work ethic and never using anything as an excuse is special.
"But beyond that, what really sets her apart from so many people is what she wants to do for other people, spreading knowledge about the disease and helping and always wanting to give back.
"Sometimes I'm telling her I need her to do less, especially in the fall. She's speaking at different events and traveling after games. I'm like, this kid is going to wear down pretty quick, but she just keeps going because it's so important to her. How to you tell somebody to cut back when they're doing it for other people?''
Greenberg has gone through and witnessed a lot since getting that diagnosis in the spring of 2013, and it has inspired her to help others any way she can.
"For me, it takes what I have and puts it in perspective,'' said Greenberg. "It's always nice to be exposed to an environment where other people know maybe not exactly what you're going through, but they have similar stories.
"It's become more of a community building project. It takes a certain person to raise the awareness. It's one thing to say that you want to raise awareness and feel bad for people, but once you start seeing everyone's story and putting it all together, it puts it in perspective how bad this really is.''