It’s been three years, almost exactly to the day – April 24, 2019 – since Molly Gorczyca was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
That’s long enough that in many ways, the former Rowan field hockey player’s life is almost back to normal. But the impact of her journey, from treatment to recovery, the pandemic, and her return to playing last fall, is still fresh.
So too is the publicity she gained along the way, including a People Magazine feature written about her dating a fellow AML sufferer, Ryan Smith, until he died in March of last year.
Now, having graduated from Rowan and started life in the working world, Gorczyca, 22, is able to take her inspirational story into the world and help inspire others.
For all of that, the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association honored Gorczyca with its Most Courageous Award at its annual banquet on Monday, the first edition of the event since 2020.
“It’s still kind of surreal to me,” she said. “I appreciate it, because I like to spread my story and I like to show people that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. … I hope it makes people feel good, and I hope it just inspires people to also, if they are facing adversity, to try to do what they can to get through it.”
Gorczyca said she has heard from a lot of people who she has inspired.
“If you can just find one good thing and you can hold on to that and you can push yourself, I hope that’s what inspires people, and people have been kind enough to reach out and say that they see that in me and they see that in Ryan,” she said.
» READ MORE: ‘You can do this!’ Love that helped her beat cancer inspires Rowan’s Molly Gorczyca
That doesn’t mean it has always been easy to carry the psychological burdens of everything that has happened.
“At some point, there’s no answer to ‘Why me?’ – there just isn’t,” she said. “And if you kind of get stuck up on that, it can really bring down your morale and make you feel worse than you already do. So I tried to stay as positive as I could be, regardless of the situation.”
And for an award given in honor of courage, well, Gorczyca had a lot of that, too.
“What I went though … it’s terrifying, and it’s life-threatening, and I knew that and I wasn’t going to deny that,” she said. “But I still got up every single day and I fought it, and I think that is what courage is. Even though it was absolutely the scariest thing of my life, I stood there and I faced it and I fought it.”
Gorczyca graduated from Rowan last December, and now has a job working in marketing for famed makeup brand Estée Lauder. And as she reflected on how long it’s been since this journey started, in some ways it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long at all.
“I’m working now, and living my life, and I think back three years ago, imagining that I would be here right now,” she said. “It seems like it was 10 years ago. But then sometimes I’ll look at a picture, and I’ll see an anniversary or something, and I’m like – gosh, that feels like yesterday. … It feels like 10 years, and it feels like 10 days.”
– Phillies slugger Bryce Harper won the Outstanding Professional Athlete award.
– Former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil won the Living Legend award. He was presented by Ron Jaworski, and was surprised by two more of his star players: Bill Bergey and Wilbert Montgomery.
– Departing Villanova basketball star Collin Gillespie won the Outstanding Amateur award.
– Veteran Flyers public relations executive Zack Hill won the Good Guy award.
– The Team of the Year honor was bestowed upon the region’s medical personnel and other first responders for their role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Anna Doubeni of Penn Medicine represented them on stage.
– Other featured speakers included Theresa Grentz, Phil Martelli, Paul Palmer, Sébastien Le Toux, Joe Watson, Carli Lloyd, Larry Bowa, Mark Howe, and Doug Collins.