My freshman year of high school, I experienced a season ending injury. I sprained my MCL and tore my meniscus right before the start of the spring season. My doctor told me I was out for not only high school ball but summer ball as well. He said I had two months of physical therapy to rehab my MCL, and that I’d have to get surgery to repair my meniscus. Originally, I couldn’t see beyond the immediate effects of my injury. I was so disappointed because I had practiced so much over the winter in preparation for school try outs. Now, I was on crutches forced to do physical therapy and have surgery that would result in losing an entire year. I felt like I was letting my team down because I couldn’t pitch or play. After whining “why me,” to my dad, he gave me some good advice. He told me to suck it up. “Whining,” he said, “Isn’t going to change anything. It’s not going to help you recover any faster. Everything happens for a reason and instead of dwelling on why it happened, just accept it and move through it.”
After listening to his advice, I came to realize something that I now keep firmly in mind every time I face an obstacle. I believe that there is an opportunity disguised in every setback. First and foremost, my injury made me hungrier for the game. Not being able to play served as my motivation. I wanted to be out on the field so badly that I did whatever I could to get better. In physical therapy, we focused on strengthening the muscles around my MCL and meniscus because the stronger they were, the quicker my recovery would be after my surgery. Because of my hard work, I recovered more quickly than the doctor had anticipated. I was up and running just two months after my surgery. From that point on, I consulted my therapist and prepared an intense work out program that incorporated both weight lifting and conditioning in order to keep my body in good shape. This injury really taught me the importance of taking care of myself. As an athlete, a strong base plays a major role in injury reduction and also helps to decrease recovery time.
By recognizing that there is an opportunity in every setback, I was able to raise my game. Freshman year on, I stuck to a work out plan and saw a huge difference in my performance. This definitely made me a better athlete, which enabled me get to the point I am at now; playing the sport I love at the Division I level.
Although this experience was the first time I came to realize this belief of “opportunity in a setback,” there’s another more defining experience in my life. I was in Florida for a softball tournament this past March. My parents came down to visit and watch me play while my two sisters stayed with my grandma. Unfortunately, my littlest sister, who was 9 years old at the time, had been sick with a sinus infection. My parents decided to leave a little earlier to go back home and take care of her. They took her to the doctors for some precautionary tests which wound up showing a tumor in her neck and sinuses. She underwent a biopsy that day and the tumor turned out to be cancerous. She was then diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Obviously this came as a complete shock to my family. Sammie had always been a very healthy, typical 9 year old girl, and it just wasn’t fair that someone so young and full of life should have to deal with cancer. At first, it was difficult to have faith. I found myself questioning my beliefs. After a little soul searching, I thought about what my father had said so many years ago. It’s not going to help to dwell on what happened, yes my sister having cancer is unfortunate, but it’s not going to help Sammie for me to focus on that. Focusing on her recovery is the only way that she was going to get better.
From that point on, I treated this like an opportunity. I saw an opportunity to be there for my family. I came to value my family so much more. It brought us closer together and it also brought my extended family together as well. Over Sammie’s months of chemo, the community really rallied behind her. Her 10U softball team bought her a lap top for her weekly stays in the hospital. They brought her coloring books and games to occupy her and keep her mind off of being sick. And when her hair started falling out, we all gave her bandanas and hats to wear. It seemed like everyone was behind us and willing to help.
As of right now, Sammie is doing very well. Although she is being monitored very closely, the treatments have stopped for now and she is in remission. We have met so many people along the way that I know we’ll never forget. A few such families we had met through being in the hospital have children about Sammie’s age that aren’t as lucky as she is. Therefore, in remembering that there is an opportunity in every setback, I decided to make the most out of this opportunity.
In order to thank these families for all the support they had given us, I worked to organize a fundraiser for a few local cancer kids. I used my position as an intern for a minor league baseball team to create this fundraiser. Half the money I earned in selling tickets for a game went to these families. I sold 550 tickets and which resulted in over $1600 for the families. I also helped solicit a large donation for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well.
I believe there is an opportunity in every setback. I first came to believe this about five years ago. But it has stuck with me ever since and has helped me deal with more trying times. It has helped me to keep things in perspective. I now truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Although something might seem awful at the time, I always remember that there is an opportunity waiting somewhere.