To see me on the court as an outside hitter with the USA National Team, you’d never detect anything out of the ordinary. The truth, though, is that I’ve been in pain every day of my life for over 16 years.
I woke up one morning when I was nine years old with a constant, unrelenting pain in my lower left leg. It has never gone away.
It’s not the kind of pain that disappears after a round of physical therapy or the kind that goes away with painkillers. It’s chronic. The best way I can explain it is having the worst shin splints ever, permanently. Many Americans live like I do, in silent pain.
Worst of all, maybe, the source of it is still a mystery. Since age nine, I’ve been on a mission to find out what causes it and a journey to learn to live with it. At first, I didn’t walk for seven months. Following failed treatment after failed treatment, the doctors had decided I probably wouldn’t walk ever again. I was the only fourth grader who used crutches every day. On the last day of fourth grade, I remember I decided not to bring my crutches to school. It was exhilarating, painful, terrifying and probably ill-advised. It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. But one step at a time, quite literally, I learned how to walk again.
I didn’t just want to walk, though. I wanted to play volleyball. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the sport. I’ve been hanging around gyms since I was a little kid. My mom is a coach and my older brother has always played. At home, my dad would sit in the living room with us, and set the ball back and forth during commercial breaks. The game has always been a part of me. I wasn’t about to give that up just because my leg caused me pain.
I played on my first club volleyball team when I was 10 years old, and never stopped. Eight years later, I had a scholarship to Stanford. We played in two National Championship matches, won four PAC-10 Championships and I was named an All-American. Now I put on the red, white and blue for Team USA. I get to live my dreams every day.
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