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Exercise helps teens deal with parent’s cancer diagnosis

By Marc and Maya Silver

Washington Post

Before soccer became a career for James Riley, a new addition to the D.C. United squad, the sport was his saving grace.

When he was a freshman player at Wake Forest University, Riley got a call from his mom.

“That was a shocking phone call,” he recalls. “It was probably the last time I cried that hard, hearing those words – ‘I have breast cancer’ – come out of her mouth.”

He considered dropping out of school to go home to Colorado Springs, Colo. But he stayed, and he played.

“Soccer was a place where I could get away,” he says. “Leave all your baggage outside the soccer field and step into the lines. You can have a break and be creative and enjoy the game and competing.”

Riley’s mom is in good health today. And her 30-year-old son reaches out to teens who are facing a parent’s cancer. “Do things you love,” he tells them.

And it turns out that he set a good example. Physical activity is a great way to deal with the stress, particularly for kids who aren’t into talking about it or writing about it.

“It often engages you with other people, and it often makes people feel much better. There’s good evidence that exercise helps people with their moods.”

Adapted from the new book, “My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks” ($15, by Washington Post Express columnist Marc Silver and his daughter Maya.