Article by Jen Ewacha
As an avid player, coach, referee, and volunteer within our ringette community, Rachael Sawka was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Ewing Sarcoma, and has been battling the condition since April. If you have ever met Rachael, you would immediately see her bubbly personality, drive, and zest for life.
My first memory of Rachael was when I coached her U10 team and she had the most vibrant personality and always showed excitement to play. We have been friends since Rachael started officiating then played on our Open team.
Q: How long have you been involved in ringette?
It’s been 15 years since I started ringette. The first time I ever stepped on the ice to play ringette was at River East arena. My best friend had played for a year or two and I was interested. She borrowed me her equipment for one game of hers, and ever since then I’ve been playing.
Q: What makes you so drawn to ringette and why is it different than other sports?
I love talking to people and interacting with people, so the team aspect of ringette attracted me. I was able to gain many friendships throughout my ringette career. As I got older I developed lifelong friendships (Jen, Alex, Michelle, Danica, Steph) from many different associations and levels of ringette which was one of the main reasons why I loved the sport. I also loved the game just as much, I am not sure if it was the fast pace, skills, or game itself that kept me in it but I’ve never been able to give it up.
Q: What other roles do you have within ringette?
I’ve been a ref for 10 years, I loved learning the game through a different set of eyes. It gave me a better understanding, also to respect officials as they have a very hard job sometimes. Reffing has also taught me to put my “Reffing Face” (which is what Jen and I call it), which I’ve been able to use in aspects of my life outside of my life.
Coaching has brought me a lot of happiness to my life, teaching players everything that other coaches have passed down to me is really gratifying. Also players being able to achieve their goals and improve throughout a season was an amazing experience to watch. And of course volunteering whether it was my mom dragging me to the arena to do it or as I got older I actually wanted to, but it felt good to give back to my community.
Ringette has impacted my life in many ways that I probably don’t even know. But the sport taught me to set goals at a young age, gave me an environment to learn sportsmanship and created opportunity for success such as winning, or sometimes losing but improving always.
I am not involved this year in ringette as I am battling cancer. But I soon hope that I can return next year.
Well it seems as though my treatment is constantly changing because it’s me. But as of right now, I went through 25 radiation treatments, 3 surgeries (one more to come), and 3 out of 12 chemo treatments. I have had a little bump in the road recently where I had to get the titanium plate replaced in my head. So my treatment is ongoing and day by day. Fingers crossed to soon be over. But I’m still going strong, I may be wearing a helmet and completely bald, but I am still working on staying positive not only for myself and family but others who are going through similar circumstances.