Energy to burn | For the Love of the Game

I've never been fond of the early morning wake-up calls, so when Melodie Madison told me how about being a coxswain with the Seattle Pacific University crew team involves rising before 5 a.m., I was impressed.

I met Madison, a SPU student (Edmonds-Woodway alum) and the Mercer Island Booster Club social media coordinator when the Wolverines faced Jeff Lindquist and the Islanders' football team earlier this season. With all the hype surrounding the game, I wanted to get there early.

They were just setting up the table to take tickets when I walked in and it I had no doubt I was the first one there. Until I saw Madison.

By the time I arrived, had already worked herself into a calculated frenzy of anticipation.

She recounted Lindquist's highlights from the season and his career like she was reading from Cliffs Notes. She told me how she loved the atmosphere and culture of prep sports and appreciated how a primarily self-contained community like Mercer Island rallies behind a group of young people who represent their values and put them on display on the gridiron and hardwood.

Then, she told me something I never could have imagined based on her demeanor and attitude.

Just a year ago, Madison was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Symptoms of the disease vary based on the severity and location of each attack, but are known to include loss of balance, numbness, problems with coordination and fatigue, among others.

The toughest part for Madison was the fatigue. Before isolating and eliminating triggering foods such as dairy, gluten and meat from her diet, she slept up 18 hours per day.

But in some ways, the diagnosis served as more of a relief, finally giving her a cause to the previously unknown symptoms she suffered from.

During the football game, she bounced around the Islanders' sideline, belting out words of encouragement even as the score became increasingly lopsided in favor of the visitors from Bellevue.

At one point during the second half, with Lindquist leading his team into the throes of a comeback and Madison helping the wave of chants from the home stands to the sideline, I distanced myself just slightly in the interest of neutrality.

But even from afar, it was hard not to admire her unwavering zeal, especially knowing she does it in the face of a disease that seeks to destroy exactly that.

Her positivity was infectious.

Even as she disclosed her diagnosis and was open in talking about what that meant for her daily life, there was never the slightest hint of bitterness or self-pity.

While the struggle with the disease is one she still encounters daily, Madison now has the tools and knowledge to manage her symptoms and get back to her life's passions of sports and writing.

She of course has the undeniable fascination with prep sports and is a dedicated fan of University of Washington athletics as well, but as an athlete, it's all about the crew.

The plan to mitigate her symptoms are working well enough that she is back in the boat, where she belongs. The early mornings of crew followed by long nights of studying are always a challenge, but a welcome one.

And of course, it's a great outlet for all that energy.

To read more about the life of Melodie Madison, visit her blog, "Author. Coxswain. Seattleite."

For the Love of the Game is a Bellevue Reporter column written by sports reporter Josh Suman. To conact Josh, call 425-453-5045.

Photo Credit: Seattle Pacific University crew team website, Courtesy Photo

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