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Bring on the rain

Not many people can say their most memorable sports experience occurred while sitting on the concrete floor of a field house restroom. The toilets at Koskinen Stadium, however, were exactly where I found myself on a stormy late-September night, when I leaned back against a clammy cinderblock wall, crossed my legs in front of me and began talking about cancer.

I hadn't trekked up the hill to Koskinen to do an interview in a bathroom, but the woman who sat across from me hadn't come to Durham that night to sit on a dirty floor, either. Lisa McDonald made the trip to watch her daughter Christie, then a sophomore on the Duke women's soccer team, play in her first home ACC match since the defender had a tumor removed from the left side of her brain in May. And although I had an interview scheduled with Christie for the next day about her surgery, I was simply there that night to cover the Duke-Boston College game.

The rain changed both of our plans. As the clock began to tick off the last five minutes in the first half, the wind picked up and rain drops started to fall. By the time the buzzer sounded it was pouring buckets. Even with the halftime break, the ensuing lightning was clearly going to delay the second half, and possibly suspend the game. Most fans packed up and left the stadium for good. Huddled under a leaky scoring tent, I watched as the teams retreated to the locker rooms and spectators scrambled down the bleachers.

Next thing I knew, I had an hour and a half to wait out the weather with Christie McDonald's mother and a voice recorder in the only dry place we could find. Lisa, who had traveled all the way from Georgia to see her daughter play, wasn't going anywhere.

Camaraderie develops pretty quickly when you're camped out with someone next to a row of sinks and stalls. During our conversation, Lisa's candid account of her daughter's diagnosis, surgery and recovery enabled me to gain an inside perspective on how Christie and her family handled the trying events of the past few months.

Anecdotes and details ranged from serious concerns like Lisa's fear of her daughter's chance of facial paralysis to humorous recollections of events after the surgery. Over the hammering of rain against the roof, there were more stories bounced off the walls of that bathroom than I could possibly fit into the feature, but the easy flow of conversation increased Lisa's comfort zone.

In listening to the woman who knows Christie better than anybody, I was able to get an amazing account of Christie's developments before I even met her. More importantly, however, I had the rare opportunity to share a sense of trust with Lisa that not only allowed me to better understand her story, but to expose the more human aspects of Christie's experiences as well.

I had wanted to pack up and go home more than anything when that rain had started. But after taking the time to sit down and talk with Lisa, I was all the more excited to write an already compelling story.

It was one of those brooding evenings where everything on campus resembles an evil Gothic castle and all you want to do is curl up on a couch and watch the clouds move and the sky change colors over the Chapel steeples. But instead of wrapping up in a warm blanket, I was clutching my windbreaker tightly around my shoulders and freezing my toes off. Don't ever let anyone tell you working for The Chronicle isn't a tough job sometimes.

If you truly take advantage of the infinite opportunities Duke affords, Duke is tough. And in my experience-inclement weather aside-it's the tough part that makes it rewarding.

Working at The Chronicle, just like most things I've done at Duke, has been challenging, but I wouldn't trade it for any other experience. It's given me opportunities to take advantage of the extensive resources available at this University, and the chance to appreciate listening to other people's stories and learn from them.

Most of all, though, it's taught me that most of the time, a little rain never hurt anyone.

Lauren Kobylarz is a Trinity senior and the outgoing online editor for The Chronicle. She is also a sports associate editor and Towerview contributor.


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