How I Found My Purpose After Losing My Twin
April 26, 2023
— Written by Melissa Macaluso —
For as long as I can remember, sports played a dominating role in my life. Some of my earliest memories were playing Around the World on my family’s makeshift basketball court, or watching the Yankees win World Series after World Series, back in their three-peat era (yes, I know I’m going to get some heat for that one).
Fortunately for me, I had a built-in sports buddy. Someone to always play catch with, and challenge to a quick game of 1:1. A base for all the stunts we did as cheerleaders, who never let me hit the ground. Someone who fully understood that when the Giants made their Super Bowl run in 2008, our pajamas had to be matching week over week, and our assigned seats were non-negotiable. Someone who, as we got older, developed into the stellar right fielder who backed me up at 2nd base, and the big hitter, one or two slots behind me in the lineup who moved me around the bases (after I inevitably bunted because I couldn’t come close to hitting like she did).
My built-in sports buddy was my twin sister Megan, and for the majority of our childhood, whatever sport we were playing, we were out there together. Until we weren’t.
Megan was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma just a few days before our first day of senior year of high school. What did this mean exactly? The base who never let me hit the ground as cheerleaders was now threatening (truly, threats were made if I came close to being dropped) my new base from the sidelines. The right fielder who always had my back if something got by me was now cheering me on from the bench. And, something I never expected, my built-in sports buddy was often not there at all because she was at the hospital getting chemotherapy or wasn’t feeling well enough to be at my games. For every game she couldn’t be at, you better believe I was getting a pump up text right before and a call right after.
Fast forward almost 2 years from her diagnosis, my built-in sports buddy passed away from that rare and vicious cancer, and the evolution of having her there with me every step of the way, to being there when she could (while emotionally supporting me from afar) was totally over, and the life I was so accustomed to completely changed.
As you can imagine, some adjustments were in order, and of course while I use “built-in sports buddy” for the purposes of this blog, the reality is that she was my built-in life buddy. For the first time in 19 years, I needed to figure out life without Megan, and while she wasn’t there to clearly validate it, figure out what she would want me to do and how she would want me to move on.
Without question she would want me to gain the confidence and independence I was so worried I couldn’t gain on my own, and it quickly became clear that while I knew I had a lot of work to do to establish myself as my own person, there couldn’t and wouldn’t be a situation where Megan wasn’t known to those around me. Whatever I was going to do in this life, I was going to do it for her.
So let’s bring this back to sports, shall we? After all, sports played and continues to play a dominating role in my life. The challenge I was faced with was how I could create an identity for myself and participate in a sport without feeling like something was missing. Because let’s face it, the sidelines at the football game and the softball diamond could simply never feel the same without her. So, this would be something for me. Something that I could succeed in for her.
Why Cycle for Survival
While my built-in life buddy was being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, my family was doing research for organizations we could contribute to that would benefit kids like Megan. Walking the halls of that great hospital we started seeing signs saying things like “JOIN THE BATTLE!” “THE MOVEMENT TO BEAT RARE CANCERS” “100% OF FUNDS RAISED GOES TO RARE CANCER RESEARCH.”
Battle? Rare cancers? IMPACT?
Naturally, we were intrigued, and after speaking with some families at the hospital, it was clear this organization, Cycle for Survival, was something we needed to check out. Little did I know at the time, that “something for me, something that I could succeed in for her” was right in front of me even before Megan passed away.
Cycle for Survival is a nation-wide cycling event that raises funds for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Events happen across the country and on event day, you and your team jump on some stationary bikes and experience the most exhilarating, motivational spin ride you can imagine. Pedaling hard or hardly pedaling, you’re singing, you’re dancing, you’re laughing, and you’re crying, but above all else, you’re making a difference. Did I mention 100% of every dollar supports pioneering research and lifesaving clinical trials?
Joined by my family and friends, we participated in our first Cycle for Survival ride in 2013, and fortunately, Megan was there to see it. Coming out of the event she told my family, “This is it. This is the organization we should commit to. We should put all our eggs into this basket.”
Say less, Megan…
10 years, hundreds of rides, and millions of dollars raised later, Cycle for Survival continues to be that thing I needed. It’s the support system, and the community that has allowed me to be a leader through a sport that was so new to me, and something I considered my own, all the while, honoring my sister and all those who have fought, are fighting and will fight.
I often tell people one of my favorite things to do is brag about Megan (if you couldn’t tell), and no matter how self-sufficient I continue to be, it’s incredibly important, in fact it’s a requirement, that the people closest to me know Megan and understand the special person she was.
When I joined LeagueApps nearly 5 years ago, I quickly realized this place is more than just a job, and the people here are more than just colleagues. As I started sharing about Megan and my involvement with Cycle for Survival, I never could have imagined just how committed LeagueApps would be to the cause. I type this out just 1 day before team LeagueApps joins our 5th ride in NYC approaching $120,000 raised since we started. Pretty darn incredible, huh?
Nothing about me made sense when I lost my built-in life buddy Megan back in 2013, and to be quite honest, a lot still doesn’t make sense. But I know one thing to be true: sports have shaped my life. And while some of the greatest memories I’ll ever have were playing them with Megan, they continue to shape who I am today and who I’m becoming through this something for me. Something that I can succeed in for her, Cycle for Survival.
It’s not too late to make a donation to LeagueApps’ Cycle for Survival Ride, which takes place on Friday, May 20. Our team has collectively raised over $28,000 so far, and counting.