Brayden Race was used to playing through the pain. As an avid softball player, she knew that bumps, bruises and aches were all part of the level she played at.
But when, at 15, the hurting didn’t diminish and instead worsened, she knew something was wrong.
“I played catcher on a select team,” she said. “I thought I’d hurt my tailbone, but then I found a lump on my back. I had to go to Seattle Children’s Hospital.”
Four days later she received the diagnosis. It was Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
“It was one of the worst days of my life,” she said.
She started chemo immediately, but when her lung was punctured during surgery to insert a chemo port, her hospital stay stretched to three weeks, instead of the expected four or five days.
Race had just started her sophomore year at Mead High School. Continuing chemo meant a weakened immune system, so she couldn’t return to school.
Mike Phillips, college and career readiness coordinator at Mead, said, “She was so weak she needed help to walk.”
No school. No softball. And no hair for a very long time.
“It was really hard,” Race said.
Thankfully, the treatments worked. Race has been in remission for a year and a half.
If battling cancer was a challenge, so was returning to Mead at the start of her junior year.
“Being gone for a year – everything had changed,” she said. “People had their own groups.”
Chemo damaged the muscles in her legs, so just walking through the halls was difficult, but she not only persevered, she thrived.
“She’s a very determined kiddo,” Phillips said. “She’s got incredible courage. She looked that challenge in the face and didn’t flinch.”
Since she couldn’t return to the sport she loved, Race found a new interest and a possible career path. She took the cosmetology course at Newtech Skill Center.
“I want to be a make-up artist,” she said.
When asked if she’s sad about the time she lost during her high school years, she replied, “Everyone has points of feeling sorry for yourself. I just remind myself it will be over. I’m looking forward to the future.”
It’s her attitude that makes her stand out in a crowd of her peers, Phillips said.
“She looks at the big picture,” he said. “Sometimes life hands you challenges. She’s a great example of making lemonade out of lemons.”
As a cancer survivor, Race earned firsthand knowledge of how fragile life can be and it forever changed her.
“Live life to the fullest,” she said. “You never know how long you’ll have.”
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