Athletes reflect back for Pediatric Cancer Month

By Annemarie Blanco | Sept. 21, 2015, 10:46 a.m. (ET)

In honor of Pediatric Cancer Month, three Paralympians and Paralympic hopefuls share their own stories of overcoming childhood cancer and going on to succeed at the highest levels of international competition. These athletes are only three of the more than 15,000 who are diagnosed with pediatric cancer each year in the United States. 

Allison Aldrich, sitting volleyball 

“On September 13th of 1995, I was diagnosed with clear cell sarcoma. I had to have my right leg amputated below the knee. I endured six months of chemotherapy and lost all my hair but enjoyed wearing decorative hats. I had a Make-a-Wish trip to Disney World. Having cancer at an early age taught me that you can turn any negative into a positive. I was never pitied, because I believed this happened for a reason. It has made me into the person I am today. I can do anything I put my mind, all it takes is perseverance and determination. What the Paralympics have taught me is to be thankful for what the U.S. has. I am thankful to be from this country and be able to have played for the USA. It has opened my eyes to new things and now I am able to teach my students that today.”

Lacey Jai Henderson, track and field 

"Being sick at such a young age, then surviving a life-threatening disease like cancer taught me so much about myself. In surviving, you find that the fire inside of you burns brighter than any fire that you are thrown into. I was an athlete before I had my leg amputated and knew that even after cancer, my love for sports would continue. I had no idea that while it seemed like cancer had taken something away from me, it has granted me one of the best gifts of all - gratitude. It's a gift to represent the U.S. on an international platform, and I wouldn't have the same opportunities if the fire wasn't lit at an early age."

Nicole Roundy, snowboarding 

"I was diagnosed with sarcoma when I was 8 years old. Fighting it was one thing, but moving on was another. Cancer changes your life, your perspective, and sometimes even who you are as a person. I fought the fight like anyone would; one day at a time. After the amputation of my right leg, I felt trapped by my physical limitations and it took me years to feel comfortable with it. As a person, I was alive, but I wasn't really living.

"I watched snowboarding for the first time in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Back then the world said, ‘Above-the-knee amputees will never snowboard.’ If people tell you that you can't do something, that's all the more reason to do it. I started when it was ‘impossible,’ I kept going when it got hard, and I celebrated when it became a Paralympic sport. Being part of the Paralympic movement has allowed me to reach my goals and aim higher than I ever could on my own. I'm grateful to be alive every day and living this incredible dream. The road may be long, but the fight is worth it."