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Sept. 26, 2016

The Ohio State Synchronized swim team held its annual Sync Cancer event on Sunday, Sept. 11 and once again, it was a triumphant success. The team raised over $6300 this year, bringing their overall total for four years to a little over $22,000.

Donations will continue to be accepted throughout the month of October. The direct link to donation page is 2016SyncCancer.

The below blog was written by Steve Wartenberg and originally appeared on the OSUCCC – James blog

The theme of the 4th Annual Sync Cancer swim-a-thon was “spread the light,” a fitting tribute to the event’s inspiration.

The bright light that more than 100 people gathered to share and spread was the loving glow of Emily Marsh-Fleming, who died in March 2014 after a long battle with metastatic breast cancer.

 “At this point, it’s all about helping others,” Scott Fleming, Emily’s husband, said of the synchronized swimming team’s annual fundraising event at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. The event raises money for Pelotonia, which funds cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

But enough talking, it was time to go.

“Let’s get the swimming started!” shouted Bryce, Emily and Scott’s effervescent, 6-year-old son.

When Bryce talks, people tend to listen. Emily’s family and friends jumped into the pool and started swimming laps, while current members of the synchronized swimming team demonstrated their sport. Scott and Bryce swam in “Emily’s Lane.”

 “I swam half a mile,” Bryce said.

Emily helped lead the Buckeyes to four consecutive National Championships (they’ve won a total of 29) and was on the U.S. National Team. She’s in the Ohio State Hall of Fame and the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Hall of Fame.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, when she was six months pregnant with Bryce. Emily delayed her treatment until after Bryce was born, and seemed to be in remission. However, in 2012, her doctors at the OSUCCC – James discovered that her cancer had metastasized.

Emily rode in Pelotonia twice, but was too sick to ride in 2013.

“She came to me in the summer of 2013 and said `I have a great idea for the synchronized swimming team,'” said Holly Vargo-Brown, coach of the Ohio State synchronized swimming team. The idea was to bring former and current members of the team, family and friends together to swim laps and raise money to fund cancer research as part of Pelotonia.

Sync Cancer was born.

“This fulfills her dream. Emily was such a believer in what Pelotonia represents: Research,” said Linda Fleming, Scott’s mother.

Sync Cancer has become an annual reunion for the synchronized swimming team and a celebration of Emily.

“The way Emily lived her life was, `what’s next and how can we make it better?,'” Vargo-Brown said, adding she’s been thinking about and has been inspired by her former swimmer a lot in recent weeks. “She challenges me, even now, to make this event bigger and better.”

The Sync Cancer event has raised more than $25,000 in four years.

“With every dollar raised, we get one step – and stroke – closer to finding a cure,” said guest speaker Meghan Pawlikowski, who was recently awarded a Pelotonia Fellowship. She works in the lab of Carlo Croce, MD, Director of Human Cancer Genetics at the OSUCCC – James, and she will research breast cancer.

Scott has taken over for Emily as captain of the Team Buckeye – Sync Cancer peloton and rides in Pelotonia every year.

Emily remains an integral part of her husband and son’s lives.

“You have two choices in life: Live each day the best you can or fold and live in misery,” Scott said. “She set the example, for Bryce and me, to live each day and our lives to the fullest.”

In the months before she died, Emily made a series of videos for Bryce — one for each of his birthdays up to the age of 38, the age at which Emily passed.

“He laughs and I cry,” Scott said of watching each new video every November. “She makes jokes and tells him about all the fun things she did at that age.”

The idea of the videos is “to try and put so much into this little guy’s brain,” Linda Fleming said. “He still has some tough days and, when he does, we put in the video of Emily reading a book to him.”

In the most recent birthday video, Emily talked about how, when she was 6, she joined the Brownies. And had a lot of fun.

“Now, Bryce wants to join the Cub Scouts,” Scott said.

And, like mom, Bryce loves the water. He recently joined the local swim team.

“I got first place once,” he said.

“He started with the freestyle and he just added the breast stroke,” Scott said. “And he said to me, `Swimming was fun before, now it’s epic.'”