Olympian Missy Franklin visits Glenwood grad Carcaterra, who’s battling cancer | PostIndependent.com

Olympian Missy Franklin visits Glenwood grad Carcaterra, who’s battling cancer

Rebecca Carcaterra
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children |

You might never know quite how much you have in common with an Olympic gold medalist until you get cancer.

Rebecca Carcaterra, who grew up in Glenwood Springs, is a swimmer. Missy Franklin is a swimmer.

They are both sophomores in college thinking of pursuing journalism careers. They grew up in Colorado and were at the same state swim meets through their teens.

And on Tuesday, talking for nearly an hour in Carcaterra’s hospital room, they bonded. “We giggled. We talked about how our dads embarrass us” and much more, Carcaterra told the Post Independent on Wednesday.

Franklin, winner of four gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and world record holder in the 200-meter backstroke, dropped by Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver on Tuesday. Rebecca’s father, Steve, former director of LIFT-UP and a longtime resident of Glenwood Springs before retiring to San Diego, had reached out to Franklin via her Facebook page, which is administered by her mother.

Franklin arranged the visit while on break from the University of California, Berkeley.

“My dad tried to make it a surprise, but I knew she was coming — the hospital press people let it slip,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca, who began swimming at age 6 with the Sopris Barracudas — now Team Sopris — club, was diagnosed in October with Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer diagnosed in only about 200 children a year in the United States. It is even more rare in adults.

Carcaterra said her shoulder was aching “on and off” for several months. After starting her sophomore year at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, she went to a health center in October. A tumor was found near her clavicle and she was told to start treatment immediately.

“I flew home 12 hours later,” and she’s been in treatment since.

Carcaterra faces about seven months of treatment, with chemotherapy regularly until February, followed by possible surgery and/or radiation, then another course of chemo. She’s likely to be able to return to college a year from now.

“It’s a well-established treatment and everybody is very positive,” she said.

She spends several days a week at the hospital, and her father has moved from San Diego and is staying nearby. Her mother, Rachael, teaches at Sopris Elementary in Glenwood and visits, and Rebecca is able to travel at times.

“I was able to go skiing the other day at Snowmass and that was awesome,” Rebecca said.

She said she wants her Glenwood Springs friends to know she’s “doing pretty well. There have been no complications.” Her spirits are good.

Her oncologist, Dr. Julie Zimbelman, said the visit from Franklin will go a long way to helping her through treatment.

Carcaterra agreed.

“It left me smiling for the whole day and probably for the whole week,” she said Wednesday morning. The two exchanged contact information, and Franklin invited Carcaterra to travel to Berkeley and to join the Cal women’s swim team for practice.

Carcaterra had been at meets since about age 12 where Franklin also competed. “I think we warmed up in the same lane once,” Carcaterra said, but they’d never spoken. Like most youth swimmers in the state, she had followed Franklin’s progress.

Unlike most of Franklin’s peers and competitors, though, Carcaterra got to wear one of Franklin’s Olympic gold medals during Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s super heavy,” she said. “It surprised me.”

Carcaterra is not swimming competitively at college, participating in the triathlon club instead and focusing on studies. Once a news editor of the Glenwood Springs High School Brimstone newspaper, she hopes to pursue a journalism career.

She is eager to get back in the pool soon.

“I don’t need a swim cap anymore,” she joked.

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