Allie Pyle and Sarah Fergus shared laps and laughs from a friendly distance growing up.
Although three years separated them, belonging to swimming families from Sugar Grove fostered a subtle bond.
It reached a crescendo this winter.
Now in remission from her November diagnosis of non-Hodkin's lymphoma, Pyle, a Rosary freshman, still beams at the selflessness of Fergus, a senior teammate on the girls swimming and diving team who organized a fundraiser that ultimately provided $4,100.
"I never really expected anyone to do anything like that for me, so yeah, it did surprise me," Pyle said. "I was really happy to see the support and stuff. And it meant a lot."
Last month, Pyle and Fergus presented their "Team Allie" fundraiser check to the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, where Pyle was treated.
Pyle underwent seven chemotherapy sessions and since has transitioned to thoughts of getting rested and prepared for her sophomore season, which begins in August.
"I just started feeling like myself again," Pyle said. "My energy levels were back up and I didn't feel tired, and I didn't really feel sick anymore."
Behind Fergus' direction, the Rosary student body worked to assure Pyle never experienced anything outside of constant warmth during her recovery.
Asked to pinpoint her favorite thing about swimming – whether for Rosary or her club team, the Aurora-based Academy Bullets – Pyle didn't hesitate to answer that "it feels more like a family." To be sure, that atmosphere extended to the school hallways.
The most tangible items in the effort were the "Team Allie" T-shirts and bracelets designed by Sign FX, a Sugar Grove company. Colored lime green, the established color of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma awareness, the items sold in tandem for $20.
The back of the T-shirts read, "No one fights alone."
"We've always been good family friends and we've carpooled to swimming and everything for such a long time," Fergus said. "I knew how hard it was going to be on her family. She's one of four kids and I'm one of five kids."
Speaking for her husband, Mike, and their children, Jenny Pyle called the gesture "overwhelming."
Fergus, meanwhile, is amazed by Pyle's poise, especially on a campus of 722 girls who seemingly maintain an ongoing interest in her well-being.
"It could be kind of awkward for people to say, 'How are you doing?' all the time, but every time I see her in the hallway, she has a simile on her face," Fergus said. "She's always laughing with her friends or talking. She's handled it really well."
On Nov. 13, one day before eventual state champion Rosary competed in sectionals, Pyle officially learned of her diagnosis.
A few weeks earlier, while experiencing regular fatigue, she noticed a "really big" lump under her arm. She had a biopsy during the second week of November, and the results ultimately prompted Jenny Pyle to rush to Rosary to transport her daughter to the hospital.
"I got in the car and there were overnight bags and she said, 'I don't know when we're going to come home,' " Allie Pyle said before briefly pausing. "I hope I never have to do anything like that again."
At home, the Pyles seldom talk about Allie's condition now.
"It's just kind of like keep moving forward," Allie Pyle said.
There's plenty else for the family to juggle. Tori Pyle is nearing her Rosary graduation, while younger brothers Zeke and Joe, students at Kaneland Harter Middle School, balance club gymnastics and swimming, respectively.
Fergus, who is weighing collegiate swimming options – two older brothers are NCAA swimmers – knows what that's about.
She's also sure that organizing a fundraiser for a friend in need came as second nature. She wasn't seeking commendation, but it steels her just the same.
"It makes me feel proud that I did something that, it may not be making a huge difference, but I'm making at least a little bit of a difference and making a small step toward finding a cure for cancer," Fergus said. "It really warms my heart to hear people tell me, 'Good job,' and, Way to go,' and that kind of stuff."