Fan cheered on Heels from courtside days before cancer took her life
by WNCN Staff
Life-long Tar Heel fan Meredith Legg Stapleton died Monday, four days after watching from courtside as Carolina rallied to beat Duke.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -
Life-long Tar Heel fan Meredith Legg Stapleton died Monday, just eight days shy of her 27th birthday.
But before her five-year battle with cancer came to an end, she watched from courtside as North Carolina rallied to beat Duke, 74-66, Thursday night.
"I'm very pleased that we could provide something positive, but it's just such a terrible disease and a terrible thing for that family," UNC Coach Roy Williams said Tuesday, adding that he had to take some time to himself after reading Meredith's story.
After doctors told Meredith she had one month to live, her husband said she prayed for two things: she wanted to build a snowman, and she wanted to attend the Carolina-Duke game on Feb. 12. It would be her first Duke-Carolina game since 2005.
"When the doctors had the talk with me, I wasn't scared or nervous," Meredith told GoHeels.com, the official UNC sports site. "I just wanted to make sure I lived it out and lived it up."
It snowed nearly a foot in her hometown of Huntersville, N.C., on Feb. 12, the day Meredith and her family were set to travel to Chapel Hill for the iconic matchup. The snow made travel impossible, but it meant Meredith could build her snowman with her sister and her brother-in-law, and her nieces and nephew.
The snow also postponed the big game, and Meredith saw it as another opportunity to watch Carolina and Duke play.
Meredith began scheduling her doctor's appointments around the Feb. 20 date -- including a seven-hour blood transfusion on Feb. 19. And just eight hours before tipoff, she had nine pounds of fluid drained from her abdomen, GoHeels.com reported.
With her fingernails painted Carolina blue, Meredith sat courtside for the game on Feb. 20.
"The players were running up and down the court, and I just watched her for about two minutes straight," Meredith husband, Christopher, told GoHeels.com. "I was so amazed by how beautiful she was, and how elegant and at peace she looked."
After the game, she and her family watched as fans rushed the court. And while they sat there, Dick Vitale introduced himself, ESPN announcer Jay Bilas stopped by and UNC broadcaster Eric Montross visited with the family.
As they left the Smith Center, Meredith told Christopher, "This feels so good."
The days that followed were tough for Meredith. Over the weekend, her kidneys began to shut down and she slipped into a coma, GoHeels.com reported.
She died Monday morning. Her family said her final days were spent talking about that Thursday in Chapel Hill.
"The young lady has passed away, and it makes the basketball part of it very small, to be honest," Williams said. "But you love the fact that it brought a smile to somebody's face for a while -- that's pretty neat."
Fans wishing to make a donation in honor of Meredith are asked to give to the Meredith Legg Cancer Fund, c/o First Community Bank, 407 Silverbluff Rd. SW, Aiken, SC 29803. Donations will go to Meredith's medical bills and then to the CURE OM organization, which is part of the Melanoma Research Foundation.