Pitching Through Pain
Brooke Wakenigg recalls the day her father told her and the rest of the family she had bone cancer.
“I’d never seen my daddy cry before,” she said.
That was nearly a decade ago when nine-year-old Brooke was told that the pain in her shin was not a stress fracture or sports injury. It was actually osteosarcoma, a childhood cancer typically found in the long bones of the arms and legs. Of course, the news was devastating to the entire family. They were forced to deal with the uncertainty of her future and the certainty that this would keep Brooke sidelined from the one thing that she loved most – playing softball.
Brooke’s tumor was on her left tibia and fortunately had not invaded any joint. She had surgery to remove the tumor and part of the bone to make sure none of the cancer remained followed by months of chemotherapy which caused terrible nausea and made her hair fall out. She had to do her schoolwork in the hospital before she could participate at school, but that didn’t prevent her from attending her fifth-grade graduation where she got a standing ovation when her name was announced.
One of the things that kept her going during the treatment was her desire to get back on the field. In fact, she insisted on going to see her team’s games – even when her condition forced her to watch from a wheelchair. Brooke’s mother, Laura, remembered how hard it was to see her unable to compete. But she credits all of that down time with a competitive fire which motivates her today.
And everything has changed now. Once she regained her mobility and was cleared to play, Brooke got back into the game. She still has to go to survivor’s clinic annually for a check-up. But her scans have been clear every year, and she has worked hard to compete and get better on the diamond. Eventually, she found her place on the mound. She pitches and plays third base for the Harris County High School Lady Tigers where her coach, Brooke Zuerner, has great confidence in her.
“Brooke has the same kind of competitive nature, but in a much more demanding way,” Zuerner said. “As a pitcher, you have to own the field. When she was in the circle, we could count on her to get it done.”
In her senior season, Brooke had a record of 12-7 with a 1.94 ERA and an amazing 90 strikeouts. She also batted .299 with four homers and sixteen RBI’s. With her accomplishments stacking up, Brooke received interest from a number of colleges and recently signed a letter of intent to continue her playing career at the University of North Georgia.
“It has been overwhelming and exciting,” Brooke said of the recruitment process. “The (UNG) coach is easy to talk to. I really like what I have heard about the school and can’t wait to get into the softball program.”
Brooke is a shining example of what CURE fights for every day. Not only was she able to beat cancer, but she is able to continue doing what she loves and is thriving at it.