By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Thursday, January 4, 2018
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – It’s always been Abbey Cornelius’ dream to swim in college at a program like Stanford University’s. But a diagnosis of Stage 2 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma about a year ago threatened that dream.
That’s why when she met with volunteers for Wishes & More – a Minnesota-based organization that grants wishes to children with terminal and life-threatening illnesses – a trip to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs was at the top of her list.
“I wanted to come here because it’s like a dream of mine to swim in college at a level like this,” Abbey said. “I chose to come here in case I could never see it or accomplish it.”
Abbey, 15, is a sophomore at Maple Grove Senior High School in Maple Grove, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis.
In December of 2016, she began experiencing pain in her neck while swimming and discovered a lump above her collarbone that was thought to be one of several swollen lymph nodes.
Last February, after a series of ultrasounds, scans and biopsies, they decided to do surgery to remove these lymph nodes, and surgeons discovered she had Stage 2 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She immediately began chemo treatments.
Despite her ongoing battle with cancer, she finished 24th in the 500 free last November at the Minnesota State High School League Class AA Swimming and Diving Championships.
She has since completed her chemo treatments and is back in the water with her club team, Life Time Minnesota.
On Wednesday, she and her family – mother Jennifer, father Chris and brother Scott – made the trip to Colorado Springs to see the Olympic Training Center. They not only enjoyed a private, VIP Tour of the facilities courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee and lunch in the athletes’ dining hall, but Abbey was also able to attend a training session with the Stanford University women’s swim team.
There, she was able to meet her hero, Katie Ledecky, and even got in the pool to swim a couple sets with Ledecky and her teammates toward the end of practice.
“It’s just really amazing to see all the athletes and coaches and how kind they are,” Abbey said. “It’s exceeded my expectations. Originally coming here, I didn’t really know how much I’d be able to do, or if I’d be able to get in the water and swim. Then I was told I would be able to swim, meet the athletes and hang out with Katie…”
For her mother, Jennifer, the trip was a dream come true.
“When she was diagnosed with her cancer, it was like the rug of life was pulled out from underneath our family, and we didn’t know how things were going to go, or where life was going to lead us,” Jennifer said. “All she wanted to do was swim and be in the pool and meet Katie Ledecky and come to the Olympic Training Center. To have Abbey healthy and to be here as a family and starting 2018 off like this is a miracle."