Remembering Rion Foster
This week I had the honor of coaching a talented, young 16-year-old swimmer from West Virginia, Madeline Foster. Maddie has great potential to develop into a superb swimmer someday.
Two years ago, she came to The Race Club with a small group of swimmers from West Virginia and I immediately remembered how talented she was then. I also recalled her telling me that her older brother, Rion, was battling a rare cancer, called Ewing’s Sarcoma. What I just learned was that Rion, who was also a great athlete, lost his battle with cancer just one month ago at the tender age of 17.
Last year, everyone globally had to endure some significant hardships with COVID-19. Maddie, who was very close to her brother, was unusually burdened. Yet, here she is today, more determined than ever to become a great swimmer. Now she is swimming for herself and for Rion.
Amy, Maddie and Rion’s mother, shared with me these thoughts that Rion wrote before he passed. They are powerful. We can all learn something from Rion, whose faith and attitude in his final days were beyond inspirational.
Yours in Swimming,
“I’ve been praying. Every single day my faith grows more and more. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but every day I feel I’ve been getting closer and closer to God. God may heal me. I do not know. Some say that cancer is from the devil, it’s a curse. My response is that I do not see cancer as a curse whatsoever. I see it as one of the most important events ever to have happened to me because of the things it has opened for me – my relationship with my mom and dad and my family. Our relationship is so strong. The main thing is the relationship with God that I have developed. I feel like without this cancer, I’m going down the road everyone else is going, walking with the crowd, indifferent at times to my faith, too worldly. With the cancer, it has broken me away from that path. This cancer has been such a monumental blessing from God in that I feel so close to God and my family and have seen so much love from others and such an outpouring of faith. I hope and pray my life has brought some sort of revival. If I had a choice to not have cancer, to be an all-star pitcher, to go the best college, or to live a life where I lose my leg and possibly my life, I would choose cancer every single time because of what it has opened for me. The deep relationships with people and the love I have felt have made it worth it. The blessings from it outweighs exponentially all the pain. I’m at a point that I don’t fear anything. One of my greatest joys is to see how others have grown in their faith because of my life. There’s no other life I’d rather have than this one – the deep relationships, the spiritual connection with God – it’s all worth it.
My advice to other who are suffering greatly is to never give up, always persevere, but it is also deeper than that. As you go through it, you will grow and change. When you get through, the strength obtained, the people you meet, the reassurance and the trust in God, is truly a blessing in disguise. Through trials, people become wiser and stronger. Maybe I won’t be here for much longer. There’s so much beauty and love to be found, so much joy, greatness and happiness in trials. It’s a joy you won’t be able to attain if you don’t go through it. You just need to keep your head on your shoulders. When you near the end, it is always going to end as God’s perfect plan – you will be rewarded and you will be happy. If you persevere, you don’t give up on your faith, you get through…then you will be rewarded with the peace of God, the fulfillment, the love, the joy… by trusting in Him. There’s no sadness if you trust and keep your faith, and that is the glory of believing in God and having the faith. We don’t have to be afraid of any outcomes. His plan for our life is perfect. I’m not scared for anything, I’m just thankful for each day. Each day is an opportunity for your faith to grow stronger.
I am satisfied. I am fulfilled. I have run the race. I don’t want it to be perceived that my life was a tragedy. It’s a beauty…that’s how I see it. There isn’t a life I’d exchange for this one. I have complete joy!”
Rion Foster 2003-2021