A lifelong battle: Fenwick’s Swisher using soccer in her fight with cystic fibrosis

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Fenwick High School senior Audrey Swisher talks about her battle with cystic fibrosis after the Falcons beat visiting Waynesville 1-0 on Monday night. The teams and fans honored Swisher before the game in an effort to raise cystic fibrosis awareness, and she played 12 minutes in her first game ...

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The challenge doesn’t change. It’s a daily grind, a never-ending battle, and it is her life.

Audrey Swisher has been dealing with cystic fibrosis since birth. She’s an 18-year-old senior at Fenwick High School and has an uncertain future. But she’s pressing on because, well, why would she do anything else?

“I manage,” Swisher said. “We’re hoping one day it will be a curable thing. It’s not yet, but maybe one day.”

Explore» Nick Graham’s photo gallery from Fenwick-Waynesville

She’s not alone in this journey. Indeed, a lot of people are supporting her however they can. Two soccer teams and a large group of fans showed up at Fenwick on Monday night to do just that.

The host Falcons defeated Waynesville 1-0, and it was a sea of purple shirts and #audreystrong labels. Fenwick wore purple during the game, the Spartans wore it before the game, and fans wore it all night.

Swisher accepted flowers from the opposing players and posed for a photo with both teams, then went out and played the first 12 minutes of the game before taking the rest of the night off. It was her first action in about a month.

“It was really great knowing that all these people are supporting me, that my team supports me, that my friends care enough to do all this for me,” Swisher said. “It’s very emotional seeing everyone here. It makes me really happy.”

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Fenwick senior Audrey Swisher was honored at Monday night’s Fenwick-Waynesville girls soccer game in Middletown. Swisher, a senior who’s been fighting cystic fibrosis since she was born, got to play in her first game in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fenwick senior Audrey Swisher was honored at Monday night’s Fenwick-Waynesville girls soccer game in Middletown. Swisher, a senior who’s been fighting cystic fibrosis since she was born, got to play in her first game in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fenwick senior Audrey Swisher was honored at Monday night’s Fenwick-Waynesville girls soccer game in Middletown. Swisher, a senior who’s been fighting cystic fibrosis since she was born, got to play in her first game in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

She got the message that she was medically cleared to play a couple hours before the game. Fenwick coach Chris Clouse knew she wouldn’t be able to play a lot, but the forward/center midfielder was in the starting lineup.

“With her coming out for #audreystrong, if she was able to play, she had to start,” Clouse said. “It would’ve been a bad move on my part not to do that. It was an emotional night for everybody. What’s really awesome is that Waynesville’s community and our Fenwick community came together and put together something that was as great as this.”

Waynesville had to agree to be a part of this event. Spartans coach Brian Bunn said there was no hesitation.

“We’re proud to be a part of it,” he said. “We don’t mind dedicating time and energy to that kind of stuff. Anything like that is a great cause. It’s about the girls.”

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Fenwick’s Audrey Swisher (12) kicks the ball while being defended by Waynesville’s Anna Miller (36) on Monday night at Fenwick. Swisher, a senior who’s been fighting cystic fibrosis since she was born, was playing in her first game in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fenwick’s Audrey Swisher (12) kicks the ball while being defended by Waynesville’s Anna Miller (36) on Monday night at Fenwick. Swisher, a senior who’s been fighting cystic fibrosis since she was born, was playing in her first game in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fenwick’s Audrey Swisher (12) kicks the ball while being defended by Waynesville’s Anna Miller (36) on Monday night at Fenwick. Swisher, a senior who’s been fighting cystic fibrosis since she was born, was playing in her first game in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. That is Swisher’s daily fight.

There are other problems that stem from the disease. She has diabetes as well. The CF treatments are like a clock with a lifetime battery, day after day after day. And Swisher said she takes about 60 pills a day.

Yet her parents, Jeff and Kristy, have always encouraged her to get involved in activities and multiple sports. She’s played soccer since she was 4.

“Soccer is a huge part of why I’m so healthy because it helps me breathe,” Swisher said. “CF makes it difficult to play, but playing makes me healthier, so it’s kind of a backwards thing. Even if I don’t feel good, even if I can’t breathe, I just play anyway. The more I push through that, the easier it is to play.”

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Fenwick’s Hope Evans (11) scores the only goal in a 1-0 victory over visiting Waynesville on Monday night in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fenwick’s Hope Evans (11) scores the only goal in a 1-0 victory over visiting Waynesville on Monday night in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fenwick’s Hope Evans (11) scores the only goal in a 1-0 victory over visiting Waynesville on Monday night in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Swisher went through summer workouts and played with the Falcons earlier in the season before being hospitalized in mid-September. Her mother is a nurse.

“I was in the hospital for a week on IVs, then I came home and did two weeks of IVs there,” Swisher said. “I got off on Friday so I could go to homecoming.”

Fenwick senior goalkeeper Harper Brock and her mother Andrea came up with the idea of honoring Swisher at a game, in part because she wasn’t able to attend the Senior Day contest against Chaminade Julienne (a 3-1 victory) on Sept. 22.

“I’ve known Audrey since she was in kindergarten,” Harper Brock said. “She’s been one of my closest friends throughout my years. I’ve seen her in the hospital. I’ve seen her through daily treatments. I’ve seen her through it all.

“Some of the people at Fenwick didn’t even know she had cystic fibrosis. She’s the most modest, humble person, but I think everyone should get their moment that they deserve, a night like this, when they’ve been battling their whole life against something like cystic fibrosis.”

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Waynesville’s Marcella Sizer (13) gets a shot off against Fenwick goalkeeper Harper Brock on Monday night at Fenwick. The host Falcons won 1-0. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Waynesville’s Marcella Sizer (13) gets a shot off against Fenwick goalkeeper Harper Brock on Monday night at Fenwick. The host Falcons won 1-0. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Waynesville’s Marcella Sizer (13) gets a shot off against Fenwick goalkeeper Harper Brock on Monday night at Fenwick. The host Falcons won 1-0. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Swisher has been with her team as much as possible, even when she can’t play. She’s watched from the sideline with an IV backpack strapped to her body.

The Falcons have surged to success on the field under Clouse, who was hired this year. Fenwick started 0-4-1, but is 8-0-1 over its last nine matches.

FHS beat Waynesville on a Hope Evans goal. Brock got the shutout against the hard-charging Spartans, crediting the Laurens (Bowe and Boland) in front of her on defense. The teams could see each other again … Waynesville is seeded second in the Division II Dayton sectional, Fenwick is fourth.

The Falcons (4-1 in league play) will host Alter (3-1-1) on Wednesday night with the Greater Catholic League Coed North Division championship on the line.

Swisher expects to be there and hopes to help her team grab a title.

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Fenwick’s Audrey Swisher (12) receives a flower and a hug from Waynesville’s Kelsey Stamm during a pregame ceremony Monday night in Middletown. Swisher, a senior, who’s been battling cystic fibrosis since she was born, saw her first game action in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fenwick’s Audrey Swisher (12) receives a flower and a hug from Waynesville’s Kelsey Stamm during a pregame ceremony Monday night in Middletown. Swisher, a senior, who’s been battling cystic fibrosis since she was born, saw her first game action in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fenwick’s Audrey Swisher (12) receives a flower and a hug from Waynesville’s Kelsey Stamm during a pregame ceremony Monday night in Middletown. Swisher, a senior, who’s been battling cystic fibrosis since she was born, saw her first game action in about a month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

“It’s been a process, but every game they’re a little better than they were,” Clouse said. “Playing Alter will be huge, but so is having this night for Audrey. She’s been staring at CF every day. She’s done a remarkable job of being a fantastic young adult.”

Swisher, who lives in Lebanon, is planning to attend the University of Cincinnati or Miami University. She’s thinking about studying animal science or zoology.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Swisher plans to go right along with it.

“This just makes me realize you can’t let something stop you from doing what you want to do,” she said. “If I let this get in my way whenever I want to do something, I wouldn’t do anything. I realize that you have to do whatever you can whenever you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to do it again.”

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