Even in the most serious moments of her life, Meaghan Sardi can’t help but to crack a joke.
The center midfielder on the North Babylon soccer team is a natural leader. When there’s a tense moment in a game, she lightens the mood. When younger players have a question, they turn to their captain. Before games, she’s the one both organizing and setting up warmups.
But no challenge on the field could compare to what she faced in her early teens. In the summer of 2013, at age 11, Sardi said, she was diagnosed with a malignant ovarian tumor and underwent surgery to remove it and the ovary. The cancer was contained in the tumor, so she didn't need chemotherapy or radation, said her mother, Kathy.
“I wasn’t really affected by it, my family was affected by it a lot,” said Sardi, now 17. “So what I was doing when all the doctor visits were happening and my parents were upset a lot, I was joking around with my whole family trying to keep things light hearted.
“I actually started to say ‘Tumor humor.’ I tried to make a joke and say it was the tumor. That was pretty bad,” Sardi said with a laugh.
Sardi has been in remission for five years, she said.
On Saturday, the four-year varsity player was celebrated before North Baylon’s ninth annual “Kicks for Cancer” charity soccer event, cheered on by her family, parents Kathy and Alex, teammates and friends before the game.
“It’s very special, not only to me, but my family,” Sardi said. “I don’t like being the center of attention but I’m very happy. I love this team and it’s very special. So I’m OK with it.”
And her teammates were determined to make her proud Saturday, racing to a 7-1 victory over Central Islip on its new turf field. And Sardi scored a goal, giving her four goals and eight assists this season.
“Everyone Meaghan meets, she touches and everyone loves her,” said senior defender Taylor Calvente. “She always has a smile on her face and playing for her is that much more of a reason to want to win.”
And throughout it all, Sardi had a smile and her quick wit. Something her teammates continue to appreciate and rally around during the season.
“It just shows how strong she is,” teammate Alexis Romano said. “She has a big personality and just what she’s overcome, it brings her personality out more. You just see, she’s always happy. Whenever you talk to her, I’m laughing all the time. It’s always a great time.”
North Babylon has raised more than $15,000 in the previous eight seasons during its Kicks for Cancer games, with the money donated to the Headway Foundation and the American Cancer Society among other organizations, North Babylon coach Steve Corrado said.