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How Roberto Luongo inspired woman battling cancer to fight on

Greg Wyshynski
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There are moments when sports become more than an entertainment expenditure or temporary diversion; moments when triumphs over adversity serve to inspire us.

Leigh Maureen Thornton, 38, was inspired by an athlete: Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks. Not because he won a championship, as his playoff failures have come to define him. But because of how Luongo navigates through the adversity and criticism given to him by fans and media, and battles on.

Thornton’s in her own battle, you see. The Victoria, B.C. resident has thyroid cancer, and has been undergoing treatment since 2011.

According to the Vancouver Sun, she spent much of her time at home consuming hockey coverage. In Luongo, she saw a player who was being “almost bullied” by the negative reaction to his performance, and marveled at his determination.

She was inspired by Luongo in facing her own adversity. So she wrote him a letter.

From her Facebook page (via the Sun), a snippet of Thornton’s letter to Luongo:

I was knocked down so many times previous to this cancer that I was desperately seeking any source of possible motivation. I wanted so badly to pull through it but felt no strength inside me, however I watched you play hockey in such a way as if you were trying to save your life.

I drew strength from your strength.

You were poised when things were tough,

You made me see I could keep it together too.

I want the world to know that while many may criticize you for the times you didn’t make saves, there was AT LEAST one girl who was not only praising your ABILITY, but feeling your determination and grit and being inspired.

Read the rest here. No word if Luongo has seen the letter yet.

Thornton will next get an update on her health in March. Meanwhile, she’ll continue to be inspired by Luongo thriving as the Canucks goalie after appearing to be banished after last season, telling the Sun: “People don’t feed off bad energy, it just brings you down.”

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