Someone who understood

I looked up from my notebook to see the concerned face of Pam Shriver, someone I had been covering since she was a 15-year-old at McDonogh. She had helped me find my way around while covering Wimbledon, the French Open, the U.S. Open and more, as she rose to No. 3 in singles and formed a doubles partnership with Martina Navratilova that is still unmatched in women's tennis history.

It was 2009 and we were together at her 24th Baltimore Tennis Challenge, an annual event she had founded to raise money for children's charities. I knew of her generosity of spirit firsthand. She had taken me to my first English tea in the Wimbledon players' dining room, and had always been available with sources and quotes for my stories, whether it was as a top player on the world stage, as a television commentator, who as recently as this summer helped me find a source to talk about Maryland's newest tennis sensation, Beatrice Capra, or as a mom, sitting in the carpool line at school, waiting to pick up her three kids. We always spoke at her event, but this night there was something about my demeanor that made her stop amid her myriad duties to express concern.

"I have a lump," I recall telling Pam. I knew she, who had lost a husband and a sister to cancer, would understand. Soon she was whisked away to run that night's event. It had been a brief moment, but the next day an e-mail was waiting for me from Shriver offering her understanding and her strength. Other messages of Shriver support would follow.

The surgery and rehab went well and on Nov. 25 I covered Shriver's 25th Silver Anniversary Ball, which marked the end of the Tennis Challenge. Seeing her get her just rewards and tributes from Billie Jean King, Navratilova and Chris Evert was the best story of the year. Over the years her event had raised more than $4 million and she had done nearly that many small acts of kindnesses. I am grateful to have been among them. Thanks, Pam.

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