Mary Griffin didn’t let a cancer diagnosis in the middle of her sophomore year freeze her ambitions at Virginia Tech. Now, almost a year and a half later, the junior defender for Virginia Tech Lacrosse has her focus set on a successful 2022 season while spearheading some important charitable efforts.

Griffin felt sharp pains in a preseason workout months before the start of her sophomore campaign with the Hokies. After consulting with the team’s athletic training staff, an abdominal scan discovered a lump on her pancreas.
“I remember the first question I asked was ‘Am I going to die?’,” said Griffin, who was originally diagnosed with NET cancer on her pancreas by her doctor over a Zoom call. The Sykesville, Maryland, native was fighting a COVID-19 infection and in isolation at the time of her diagnosis. Luckily, the diagnosis came with total optimism from Griffin’s doctor that the cancer was treatable. Surgeons were able to successfully remove the malignant tumor in November 2020.
Griffin returned to campus in 2021 ready to make that challenging hurdle back to normalcy. Combining the effects of her recovery efforts and the pandemic, she had been isolated from the traditional experiences of a student-athlete. That all changed when she reunited with her teammates.
“What really helped me was getting back to school and being surrounded by our coaches, trainers, and teammates,” she said. “It gave me structure. Week by week I got back into more drills and I tried to push myself very, very hard.”
Slowly but surely, Griffin, who is majoring in sports media and analytics in the School of Communication, was able to be slowly reintroduced to team activities. Her hard work to rehabilitate was evident enough to get her back onto the field for the Hokies. On February 12, 2021, four months after being diagnosed with cancer, she jogged onto the field and played in Tech’s 13-5 win over Liberty in Lynchburg.
While she was being reintroduced to the normal schedule of a Virginia Tech Lacrosse student-athlete, she connected with Pat Collelouri, an executive with the HEADstrong Foundation. The organization is dedicated to assisting families going through cancer treatment with financial, residential, and emotional resources.

Griffin was named one of two “heroes” for the foundation in 2021, and became involved in fundraising for HEADStrong. She helped lead the foundation’s four week “Game Hair Havoc” fundraising initiative, which raised $108,000 nationwide. Griffin got Hokies Lacrosse involved in the campaign during their home game vs. Louisville. Her entire team rallied around her charitable effort by wearing green and blue ribbons, the official colors of HEADstrong, in their hair during the game vs. the Cardinals. Griffin continues to represent the foundation by donning lime green laces on her cleats during the 2022 season.
“The game was a good reminder that we were playing for a bigger reason than ourselves,” she said. “HEADstrong has been around awhile, but now that I’m a part of it, their work has a whole new meaning to me. They do a great job of bringing the lacrosse community together.”

Courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics