Girl continues cancer battle
At first glance, an early September, mid-week volleyball match between Beallsville and St. John Central might just seem like the run-of-the-mill regular season game.
For Beallsville senior Rachel Emrick, it was anything but that.
It was actually the final volleyball game Emrick will ever play in because the 17-year old is scheduled to begin chemotherapy to battle Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was re-discovered during a routine checkup in August.
“I had no symptoms and felt fine,” Emrick said. “A check-p scan is how I found out my cancer was back.”
Emrick was first diagnosed about a year ago after she became ill during a volleyball game and was quickly taken to the hospital.
After a series of tests, doctors informed Emrick and her parents – Scott and Janice – that she had cancer.
“I really didn’t know what to think,” Emrick said of when she first heard the diagnosis. “I had known people with cancer, but being a kid, I never really thought that it could happen to me. I was definitely shocked.”
Emrick immediately began treatments and was given a clear bill of health as the cancer had gone into remission.
“The doctors were not expecting my cancer to return, or this quickly,” Emrick said. “But, since they caught it early (this time), they think I will be able to beat it for good.”
Recently, Emrick underwent a surgery to have a medical port put inside her body. Doctors wanted to begin chemotherapy treatments immediately, but they held off for a little more than a week because Emrick was voted onto the homecoming court, which will be celebrated Friday against Cameron.
“I mentioned making homecoming court (to the doctors) because I knew I would probably not feel up to (taking part) if I started my chemo,” Emrick said. “The doctors decided to delay my treatments, which I was very happy about. I was honored to have been voted onto the court, but the other girls deserve it as much as I do.”
In between treatments and doctor’s appointments, Emrick has been doing everything within her power to try to lead as normal a teenage life as she can.
“I realize my life will never be normal, but whose is?,” Emrick said. “I know most kids don’t enjoy going to school, but I love the time I spend there. I want the kids to treat me as if I was normal and not as the sick kid. It’s important for me to live my life as normal as I can. I may be sick, and going through a lot, but I don’t want this to change who I am.”
Part of the way she’s maintained that level of normalcy is through athletics, choir, playing piano, guitar and she takes part in desintation imagination.
As for volleyball, Emrick was able to participate in three games this season, for which she’s extremely grateful.
“Playing my last game was definitely an emotional thing,” Emrick said. “Not only for me, but for the rest of my team, too. I was really proud that the team brought home a win in my final game.”
Along with her Beallsville teammates, Emrick pointed out how supportive the entire Beallsville community has been. Beallsville has long been active in supporting cancer awareness through its work with its mini Relay for Life each spring.
“The school and community have been beyond incredible,” Emrick said. “I can’t thank them enough for the support they’ve given me. From raising money for me, to just being there and helping me with my schoolwork, they’ve just been amazing. I wouldn’t have been able to beat this without their support.”
While Emrick’s actual volleyball career might be finished at Beallsville, she’ll still be doing all she can to support her teammates as the season continues.
“The players and coaches have been so supportive. It’s like I have a whole other family,” Emrick said. “I love my team, and even though I am unable to play anymore, I will still be at the games cheering them on.”
Emrick also pointed how “incredible” her family has been throughout the process.
“My mom and dad have been there every step of the way,” Emrick said. “They’ve taken off work to care for me and take me to appointments. My brother (Andrew) has been very kind to me and has come home from college just to hang out with me. My aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents have all been there for me every step of the way, too. I love my family and couldn’t do this without them.”
Emrick’s experiences throughout her fight have led her to decide that she wants to continue to do her part in the battle against cancer down the road after her graduation next spring.
“I want go into something in the medical field and my first choice is to go into something that deals with cancer treatments, such as radiology,” Emrick said. “I want to give back to people, so I’m hoping to be a technician, therapist or nurse.”
Emrick’s desire and passion to win her fight is unwavering.
“I know I can beat this again,” Emrick stressed. “The only way I will let (cancer) change me is for the better. I appreciate the life that I have and the amazing people in it. I try and look at this in the best way I can, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
With her family and Beallsville solidly behind her, there’s absolutely no reason to doubt Emrick.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org