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Siobhan the Warrior 










December 2023

 

At the University of Hospital Pavilion building, in the neurosurgery recovery unit, a warrior is fighting. 

 

Siobhan Forsythe is a 39-year-old brown belt at Action Karate. She is a relentless inspiration to the karate school because of her fight and determination. 

 

Siobhan had brain cancer in elementary school. She was 7. She was in the hospital for 3 months. Doctors told her she wouldn’t advance in ability past 4th grade. She didn’t get to go back to school that year.  She moved a little slower, but made incredible strides while being homeschooled for 5 years, finished high school and went to college. She moved out on her own and has worked as a daycare instructor for her entire career. When she moved to Chestnut Hill two years ago, she would take the bus to her job in Norristown, but the move had a huge perk: she joined her sister Marion (a second-degree black belt) and Marion’s son (her nephew, a middle school-aged senior Black Belt) at Action Karate Mt. Airy.

 

Siobhan thrived at karate. She got stronger, more confident and even surprised herself a few times. She became skilled at weapons training, especially arnis sticks. Then after a long cancer-free run, a few strange symptoms emerged. Her sense of hearing wasn’t quite right. An ENT doctor did a hearing test and confirmed it was hearing loss, but because of her history, recommended an MRI.

 

That was when they found the tumor in Siobhan’s brain. They would have to operate. She had to step back from her job (and hopefully return one day soon – they have told her they are eager to have her work again.) 

 

Despite the disorienting symptoms and disappointing news, she continued to take class up until the days before her surgery. She absolutely refused to miss her brown belt test November 15. She told everyone that even with the surgery looming over her, she wanted to make sure she earned her belt. She’s a fighter. Instructors gave her a uniform embroidered ‘Siobhan the Warrior’ to reflect her determination and boost her mood with the pending surgery. 

 

Despite the diagnosis, the prognosis, the insurance fight, delayed surgery due to insurance, emotional distress, and uncertainty, she showed up to be with her karate family and worked harder than anyone. 

 

The surgery was the week before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, they did not and could not get it all. The next week, they operated a second time. That time, they got most of it. The karate students sent her get well videos and worked out extra hard for her in class. One student vowed she would not take her Black Belt test until Siobhan could join her.

 

It was a grueling week of two brain surgeries and anticipating the recovery ahead. She has been able to say a few words and take a few steps and expects to go home for the treatment ahead. She is anticipating rehab and some radiation. One of these days, her next step will be back on the karate mat.  

 

In the hospital, the staff knows her as the brown belt. When her Black Belt family and friends visit, they have to explain that the brown belt in bed, stitches across her shaved head, is the toughest fighter of all of us. 

 

Read this story about Marion & Giacamo earning their black belts. After this article was written, they both ranked up and of course added Siobhan to their family martial arts pursuit. 


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