Beth Tfiloh School girls’ soccer goalie Molly Himmelrich said she always thinks about coming out of the goal to challenge an opponent.
“I always have to know where I am in relation to the goal, making sure I’m between the player and the goal at an angle where they can’t see either post,” said Himmelrich. “It all depends wherever it’s a fast break or a long shot, but I’ve got to make a quick decision. It’s all about the decision making.”
Himmelrich has been a standout in the net for the Warriors the last three seasons. She also has Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease which usually affects the intestines.
Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (affects lining of large intenstines) are IBDs. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, about 1.5 million Americans suffer from Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, about 10-percent of them under the age of 18.
Himmerlich hasn’t let the condition define her.
“She really does a good job balancing all that she does. When she puts her effort into things, she accomplishes it,” said Himmelrich’s father Ned. “There was a time when she was a freshman, it was going to be a major hindrance in what she wanted to be doing with her life.”
“It was an inspiring experience,” said Molly, “but at the time, it was rough.”
“A little stomach ache”
Himmelrich’s life changed while on a spring break trip with her family in 2006.
“My stomach was just acting up,” said Himmerlich. “At first, I thought it was a little stomach ache and I didn’t tell my parents. It kept coming back and knew I couldn’t hide it anymore.”
In June that year, after tests at The Children Hospital at Sinal, Himmelrich was diagnosed with Crohn’s. She could no longer enjoy summer delicacies like corn on the cob, and needed to pay strict attention to her diet.
Himmelrich said family and friends made the adjustment smoother. Among the symptoms associated with Crohn’s are diarrhea, stomach cramps, weight loss, fever and dehydration.
“They know that I’m not feeling well, they have to be patient with me,” said Himmelrich. “My parents have to talk to them and if I’m in the bathroom longer than usual for them to check on me.”
Himmelrich hoped to be with her friends to start her freshman year at Beth Tfiloh, but a major flare up with her condition resulted in a three-week stay at Sinai. She also planned to try out for the varsity soccer team.
After leaving Sinai, she went straight to the Old Court Road school where sister Abby was playing a game with the Warriors’ varsity. After couple of weeks of conditioning, Himmelrich gained a spot on the junior varsity, and scored two goals in her first game.
“It was hard for her to miss the whole preseason. She wanted to be on the team with her sister; she wanted to be on team with her friends,” said Ned Himmelrich. “It was a tough three weeks for her.”
Learning to balance
Every eight weeks, Himmelrich takes Remicade, a biological drug, through infusion at Sinai. An A-student who also does ballet and jazz dance during the week, Himmelrich has managed to keep her busy schedule with minimal interruption.
“The first six weeks, I make sure to get most of my work done and tasks around the house plus a little more,” said Himmelrich. “I know that last week I’m not going to want to do anything.”
“It’s not an easy disorder to deal with, it’s chronic condition and symptoms can wax and wane,” said Dr. David Tuchman, Himmelrich’s gastroenterologist. “Molly has a great attitude and is very courageous. She really doesn’t let anything stop her.”
This is especially true on the soccer field, where she’s helped Beth Tfiloh to a perfect mark in IAAM C Conference play (2-0, 2-2-1 overall). Himmelrich, who also plays goalie for the Warriors’ indoor squad during the winter, said two of her best games have come after infusion sessions which usually take two hours.
Beth Tfiloh first-year coach Russ Parisi said he was surprised to find out Himmelrich was a goalie after a couple of days of preseason practice.
“I thought she was going to be our starting defender, that’s how aggressive she is,” said Parisi. “She’s very good at reading where the ball’s going to be. It’s surprised me how tough she is especially with the things she has to endure.”
Looking to the future
Himmelrich hasn’t made a decision about college, but proximity to a hospital is at the top of the list of requirements. She said she wants to be a pediatric gastroenterologist.
“It’d be cool to learn more in depth what is happening to my body, and help kids who are like me and help them work to their goals,” said Himmelrich.
She admits she asks herself ‘Why me,” when she’s not feeling well. But like a soccer goalie coming out to challenge a shot, Himmelrich realized there’s only one decision.
“It’s expressed a whole other side of me,” said Himmelrich. “It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or how I’m feeling, I have always persevered to be motivated and confident I can get through this. “