Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That is something I learned the hard way this year.
My 2019-2020 season started out great, playing my fourth year for the Chicago Mission. However, in the middle of the fall I started getting headaches that began to interfere with school and hockey. After many doctors visits and several different medications, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in January. Two days after the diagnosis, I had successful brain surgery to remove the tumor. Once my neurosurgeon gave me the fantastic news that the tumor was benign and he expected me to make a full recovery, my first question was when can I get back on the ice. After all, my hospital room at Rush Medical Center had a beautiful view of the United Center and Fifth-Third Arena, the Blackhawks practice rink and Mission’s downtown rink. Every time I looked out my hospital room window I was reminded that my team was continuing on with our season and I wasn't with them.
Recovering from brain surgery is really hard. There is no sugar coating it. But I was motivated by my goal: playing with my team in April at Nationals in Minnesota. My neurosurgeon said it was possible as long as there were no unexpected setbacks. Four weeks after surgery he allowed me to get back on the ice with my goalie coach. No pucks, just skating. At six weeks I was allowed to take low shots on the ice. Returning to the ice was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. I remember thinking “I’m going to work so hard to get back in shape because I never want to lose hockey again.” I was exhausted and out of shape but the muscle memory was there and so was the desire. A couple of weeks passed and I was allowed to join a team practice. Little by little I kept working to get back in game shape and counting the days until Nationals. Then the unthinkable happened: Nationals was canceled and I lost hockey for a second time this year.
We have all learned a lot about ourselves these last couple of months. I have learned that while I never took hockey for granted, I did get used to having it as a constant part of my life. I still think about the last game I played, a 1-0 shutout vs Cambridge at the Toronto Aeros tournament in January. I think it was one of my best games of the season, despite having a brain tumor. I keep thinking about it because I can’t wait to get back to playing again. I know everyone else now feels that way, but I’ve been feeling that way since late January.
We’ll all be back on the ice soon and things will eventually return to normal. However, I am moving on to play at Shattuck-St. Mary’s on the Girls Prep team. While my four years with the Chicago Mission were great, I feel that playing the next two years on Shattuck’s U19 team will be the best preparation for playing college hockey. I have always loved playing in Minnesota and have spent the last few summers playing for Jr. Whitecaps/Os Hockey. I feel very lucky to be involved in such elite programs over the years.
I hope to see you at a rink soon and we’re all back playing hockey.