March 31, 2017
By Megan Golden
Believe. The seven-letter word appeared in ink on Jordy Shoemaker’s wrist on gameday. Teammates spelled it on streamers hanging in the locker room. Her senior house was decorated with block letters that spelled out the simple call to action.
A 2012 Notre Dame graduate, four-year member of the women’s lacrosse team and primary inspiration behind this weekend’s annual “Daughters for Dads” fundraiser, Jordy was surrounded with reminders of her father’s most common — and quite simple — advice.
“My dad would always tell me, `Life is 90 percent if you believe in yourself,'” she said. “Any goal you want to accomplish, 90 percent of it has to do with how much you believe in yourself, and the other 10 percent is skill.”
In 2009, during Jordy’s sophomore year at Notre Dame, her father, Bryan, was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic cancer. Doctors informed him he had a 20 percent chance of living for one more year.
Upon hearing the devastating news, Jordy contemplated dropping lacrosse and transferring to a school in Boston to be close to her father. She wanted to spend as much time as possible with him.
“My mom sat me down, and I will never forget what she said,” Jordy explained. “She said, `Jord, if you want to come home, of course you can. We will write a new story for you. You will accomplish great things no matter where you get your education. You always have my support. But you have never quit a single thing in your entire life. If you really want to help your father, stay at Notre Dame. Don’t just be there, excel there. You can come home and wait for the worst, or you can give him something to live for, something to cheer for.’
“I stayed, of course, and it was the best decision of my life. That was a very pivotal moment in my life when I learned to dig my heels in instead of hanging my head.”
Instead of living for just one more year like doctors thought, Bryan lived for four and a half more years.
Jordy relied heavily on her Notre Dame family for help managing a rigorous academic and athletic schedule, while simultaneously grappling with her dad’s illness.
Of course, Jordy traveled home to visit her father occasionally. But it was Bryan who frequently insisted on making the trek to South Bend in the middle of treatment to watch his youngest child play lacrosse. After all, he was the biggest Notre Dame fan Jordy knew.
One day, Bryan battled sickness and flew to South Bend to watch Jordy from the stands. Jordy and the Irish were prepped and ready to head out for pregame warmups, when Jordy noticed she was missing the orange ribbon all of her teammates had tied on their ponytails.
Panic set in. No one told her she had to wear the orange ribbon.
Recognizing the confusion on Jordy’s face, her teammates informed her, “That’s for you. These orange ribbons are for your dad.”
On a separate occasion, Jordy visited Bryan at Massachusetts General Hospital, where the father-daughter duo watched the Notre Dame women’s basketball team on television. The two spent quality time together that could not be interrupted — even by his nurse.
“The poor girl barely made it two steps into the room before he told her to kindly come back later because `no one interrupts us when we’re watching the Irish,'” Jordy recalled her father saying.
That game watch, four and a half years after her father was diagnosed with cancer, marked the final time Jordy saw her father awake. He passed away on April 3, 2014.
“At Notre Dame you’re held to the highest standard,” Jordy said. “You’re given every resource in the world, and as a result, you’re expected to excel in the classroom, on the field, and give back to the community. Thank God for that high standard because I didn’t have time to be sad.
“I was meant to be at Notre Dame when I went through that hard time. It’s the people. It’s the support you have, the camaraderie, the urge they have to impact other people. This is the Notre Dame family. Coming here is a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision.”
Bryan’s spirit continues to inspire people, including complete strangers, across the country.
College players who had met Jordy during her career continued to write Bryan’s initials, “B.S.,” on their wrist, wear orange ribbons in honor of his favorite color, and write the word “Believe” in their locker room.
Today, Jordy certainly is giving her father something to cheer for. A registered nurse at Boston Medical Center, Jordy is giving back to those cancer patients and family members who need the support that she continues to receive.
Jordy said she sees glimpses of her father in each of her cancer patients. Sometimes, she hears him through a song on the radio. More recently, he has come to mind when friends discuss their wedding plans. Specifically, she misses him when friends talk about their father-daughter dance.
A family friend used to take numerous photos at women’s lacrosse games and recently gave Jordy a photo she found in her archives. The image featured shirtless students with letters painted on their chests, lining the front row of the bleachers. At first glance, the photo appeared to be capturing a rowdy student section.
Given a closer look, Bryan is standing among the students with a “V” painted on his bare chest. How appropriate that Bryan stood in as one of the seven letters that ultimately spelled out his favorite word: Believe.
“`Believe in yourself, believe in yourself.’ He would drill that into me all the time,” Jordy said. “I used to roll my eyes at him, like that’s just not true. It is. You just have to believe in yourself, and you can beat the odds.”
Call To Action
The Irish will hold their annual Daughters for Dads campaign in honor of those who have lost a loved one to cancer. The Irish will play North Carolina at noon ET on Sunday. Saint Joseph Health System will donate $25 to Harper Cancer Research Institute for every fan in attendance.
Those unable to attend Sunday’s contest are encouraged to text “NDFights” to 41444 or click here to donate.
“Even as a poor college student, never underestimate the impact of a small donation,” Jordy said. “Dollars lead to research, research leads to more time, and more time is priceless.”
If Jordy could be present on Sunday, she would have a simple message for the current roster.
“Never forget how lucky you are to have people in your life. You never know what’s around the corner,” Jordy said. “Know who you can rely on; don’t be afraid to let your guard down and fall back on the people who care about you. Be grateful for every person you have in your life.”
Megan Golden, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since August of 2016. In her role, she coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse and cross country/track and field programs. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Golden is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s College and former Irish women’s basketball manager. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she worked in public relations with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.