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Three-time cancer survivor is an inspiration

March 26, 2009 10:43 AM
Marlene Glass in action.
Glass chases down a shot.
By Ron Cioffi, USTA Southern

INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. – In 1985 Marlene Glass beat cancer. In 2002, she did it again and this year she won her battle with the disease for a third time.

This week she was beating tennis players as a member of the Eastern section team at the USTA League presented by Chrysler 3.5 Senior Women’s National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Glass is known for her odd strokes due to surgery, her undefeatable optimism and her “I lob everything back” strategy.

“She’s our inspiration...We just follow her lead,” said captain Jody Accarino.

Glass explained, “My doctor said that because I’ve always been so active is why I’ve recovered so well. That’s why I bounce back, because I keep in shape. That’s what tennis has done for me. I enjoy playing tennis and you get the exercise you need.”

In the 1970s, Glass played high school tennis in Bayside, N.Y., following in the footsteps of her brother who went on to play in college. However, she was slowed down when she was in her twenties with what doctors thought was a flu bug but would not go away.

“They finally realized it was Hodgkin’s Disease,” she said. “They found a cyst in my breast and they did surgery and removed it.”

On top of that, she had a second operation to remove her spleen and four months of radiation therapy caused her ovaries to shift downward.

Ten years later another issue came up when she was hit with arrhythmia. Surgery was scheduled and this time she didn’t lose anything but gained a heart pacemaker.

During her hospital stay, the nurse came in and yelled, “Marlene, wake up!” Glass asked what was wrong and the nurse said instruments showed her heart stopped beating for a few seconds. “She thought I was dead,” Glass recounted.

Tennis came back into her life in 2001 when she and coworkers would go over to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the home of the US Open. That is when she joined her first USTA League.

But the next year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because she couldn’t manage chemotherapy again, she had a double mastectomy. The operation now makes if difficult for Glass to hold her hand above her head. So she serves her first serve sidearm and her second serves underhand.

She joined her current team last year and then in February 2008 received another disappointing call from her doctor that she now had thyroid cancer. Her thyroid was removed and again she recovered.

“I’m an odd tennis player with my sidearm serve. I hold the racquet way up the handle because I had no formal lessons when I was younger. I stay in the back (court) the entire match and I like to lob,” Glass said.

Teammate Cynthia Brennan remembers encountering Glass for the first time.

“She was on another team and she was our nemesis. She just kept lobbing and lobbing. I told Jody (Accarino), ‘We’ve got to get her on our team,’” Brennan said. “She is a special girl and an inspiration every day. She has got a whole different perspective on life.”



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