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Lacrosse mother and coach winning the fight against breast cancer

Thursday, 1st January 2009

Categories Features, Girl's/Women's  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 1/1/09

Every Friday, Pam (Murphy) Barr drives all the way from Swedesboro,N.J., to Conshohocken to coach her daughter’s youth indoor lacrosse team.

The trek may seem extreme to some, but for Barr, the chance to coach her daughter serves as a catharsis – one that has helped her recover from breast cancer.

Barr, 41, a 1985 Interboro High graduate, was diagnosed with cancer 23 months ago. Knowing that Barr had lost her mother, a brother an a sister to cancer, Jen Duckenfield, Barr’s lifelong friend, started a youth league at Athlete’s Advantage so Barr could coach her daughter, 5-year-old Payton.

As the New Year and a new season of lacrosse approach, Barr has a brighter diagnosis – remission, after being cancer-free for a full year.

“When I was told (I had cancer), it really rocked me,” said Barr, who along with three of her five sisters played lacrosse at Interboro. “I really prided myself on being a physically strong, athletic person.

“It’s a tough thing, with my children being so young. But life goes on and you have to keep punching.”

Barr and her family, which includes husband Steven and son Shane, 10, have suffered long at the hands of cancer, Barr’s mother died of lung cancer several years ago after surviving breast cancer for 22 years, and her brother, Tom Murphy, died of cancer at 23.

Shortly after Barr was diagnosed with breast cancer, her younger sister, Amanda, died of a rare cancer Leimyosarcoma. Despite her own diagnosis, Barr had the burden of dealing with the anguish of her sister’s death and keeping up spirits of her other five siblings in a time of crisis.

“Within two years, two members of my family died of cancer and I was diagnosed,” Barr said. “But I had to do something positive and keep on going. I know people who have been through this.”

Fortunately, Barr has had plenty of support from friends such as Duckenfield – who lost her mother to breast cancer at 15.

Duckenfield, who played with Barr at Interboro and serves as general manager of Athlete’s Advantage, said she created the league so parents like Barr could pass on their joy of lacrosse to their daughters. The league now has over 100 players.

“I just thought it was be appropriate to dedicate the league to honor someone who has done so much good for other people,” Duckenfield said, noting that Barr is the god-mother to her daughter, Alex, a starting member of the Strath Haven lacrosse team.

Barr also has received support from Cabrini College women’s coach Jackie Neary, who is in remission from uteran cancer.

“I have known Jackie for years and she called me first when my sister was diagnosed,” Barr said. “Then, when I was diagnosed she called me again. It was great to talk to her because she has such a great outlook on life,” Barr said. “She stays in such great physical shape and is a real support person for me and my family.”

Now, after enduring many sessions of chemotherapy, Barr is more than happy to receive IV treatments every few months. She recently placed third in the Susan G. Komen Run for the Cure and she is proud that her daughter’s team wears pink shirts to signify the Komen fight against breast cancer. Barr also gets to watch her son play lacrosse.

“There was a brief time when I did not think I would get to see my own children grow up,” said Barr. “That is every parent’s nightmare.

“It’s been so much fun watching Alex play. I want to be able to do that with my daughter and son so they can stay involved.”


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