Volleyball Isn’t Life…but it saved mine twice!

ElizabethStarting at the age of 10, volleyball was pretty much “life” to me…granted I played other sports, but volleyball always had my heart.  I played all through middle school,  high school, and college.  I even met my husband because of playing volleyball, he had seen my picture in the local newspaper when they did a feature article our upcoming season at Nazareth College, using that as a way to start a conversation with me.

There wasn’t much time for volleyball after getting my teaching degree and having two beautiful daughters.  Thenone afternoon in the fall of 2002, my neighbor asked if I’d hit some balls at her and help her get ready for upcoming middle school tryouts.  We had a good afternoon of practice, but boy was I was rusty and sore from not touching a ball in years!  A few more days had passed and the soreness under my arm had not subsided at all.  Months earlier I had asked my OBGYN when he suggested getting my first mammogram (my aunt and grandmother had both died from breast cancer).  He said to get a baseline at 35… I was 34 1/2, and listening to my own instincts with the soreness and feeling something unusual, proceeded to get a mammogram and ultrasound.  I met with a surgeon later that week, he said sometimes these type of lumps come and go with your monthly cycle…again, going with my gut cancelled my surgery with him and found an oncology surgeon.  With a new surgeon and lumpectomy a week later, I woke up from surgery to a whole new world.

Six months of chemo, 30 radiation treatments later I celebrated being cancer free with my family in California. After catching it early and going through such an aggressive treatment, my chances of it returning were very low. Over the next 13 years, my daughters gained an interest in volleyball, so started coaching  at their school and travel clubs.  I was blessed to be able to coach both of my daughters and their friends while being the head varsity coach at their Christian high school. When my oldest graduated and was going on to play in college, I decided to retire to be able to spend more time with my father who was beginning slow down tremendously and was having some health issues.

I was thoroughly enjoying just being a mom and wife, going to the girls HS and college matches while being able to spend more with my father. I continued to coach for our travel club, which began around the holidays and tournaments started in January.  Again, after hitting balls at practices… I felt “that” soreness and lump again…in the exact same spot. I knew at that point it was back…damn cancer.

Appointments were made for testing once again…the look on the technician’s face was all I needed to confirm my gut feelings, again…

Minutes later the radiologist’s diagnoses set the stage for my next 6 months.  Meetings with my oncologist and surgeon quickly sent me into a tailspin of a double mastectomy with total reconstruction, and 3 months of chemo immediately following.  I would never have made it though this second episode without my faith in God and the love of everyone around me.  Relatives, friends, coworkers, players/parents, and even my daughters college team at FGCU all showed great support in one way or another during this blur of kicking cancer’s butt for good.  Being diagnosed and going through treatment is never an easy journey, but if you surround yourself with those who love and support you…you can get through anything.

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