Too often in sports media you hear about players “overcoming adversity” or “dealing with adversity” when the challenges being described are somewhat trivial, self-inflicted minor troubles, or both.
University of Washington incoming freshman Katie Collier, the #21 rated national recruit in women’s college basketball, knows actual adversity. The type of serious, genuine adversity that makes the “adversity” often being described by many sports journos look like mere annoyance.
Collier played in the McDonald’s All-American game just weeks after finishing her final chemotherapy treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).
The trouble started for Collier last fall when Collier began coughing up blood. From ESPN.com:
Still bleeding from her gums when she woke up later that evening, Collier was taken to the emergency room at a nearby hospital. After she was transferred to the UW Medical Center, further testing led to the diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia, which is a rare form of another rare form of leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer that starts inside bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells.
“At the beginning, within the first 24 hours they thought it was going to be something called AML, which is a form of leukemia, but it happened to be a different type, APL,” Collier told me at the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago.
“And it sounds weird, but I was happy to get that rather than AML because it would have been a lot more aggressive treatment, and I would not have been able to play- let alone this year, perhaps not in college overall.”
The earliest stages of the diagnosis were some of the toughest days for Collier, but she did get some good, or at least better, news sooner rather than later.
“After they did more research and broke it down, I was just so happy, and it was a weight lifted off my shoulders when I got this APL, and everyone’s like you’re happy with that?"
“Absolutely if you’re comparing to the two,” the McDonald’s All-American from Covington, Washington said.
Not only did Collier play this season, but she played during the season with a port (a device for injecting the chemo into her bloodstream. She initially had a picc line, but encountered issues with it, so it had to be replaced with a port) and even played in a varsity game for Seattle Christian the same day as receiving a treatment.
The video below is a quick 6 minute documentary of her journey:
Katie is an inspiration to us all, but her mother Ann Collier is an inspiration to her, as she survived breast cancer while Katie was in the 8th grade.
Just a couple weeks after having her port removed and her final chemotherapy treatment, Collier played in the McDonald’s All-American game.
“I thought Katie Collier was a tremendous force for us inside defensively,” said West team coach Tanya Johnson. And Collier didn’t just play, the 6’3″ center led the game in blocks.
“Defense is my favorite part of the game, it brings out the intensity, and it gets you fired up,” Collier told me after the game.
Johnson raved about how inspirational a figure Collier is and how she’s destined to do great things.
Collier had the exact same type of leukemia that claimed the life of Syracuse tailback and Cleveland Browns draft pick Ernie Davis. But today it is now considered highly curable in nearly all patients. Collier’s case is just one example of how far medical science has come in 40 years.
The life of Davis, the first African-American Heisman trophy winner, was captured in the Disney film “The Express,” much of which was shot here at Evanston’s Ryan Field on the campus of Northwestern.
For Collier, the future looks very bright and the outlook for her health is overwhelmingly positive as she begins her college years cancer-free.
“I just go in for annual blood draws in the future,” she said.
Now that’s the definition of overcoming adversity.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.