A clean slate. An open canvas. A new chapter.
There are many ways an incoming freshman can describe heading off to college. Everyone is trying to make new friends and tackle the whirlwind of information they are bombarded with.
For Paige Eakright, her freshman year was full of the typical freshmen hard-comings as well as an even bigger trial — cancer.
On August 26, 2016, Paige was diagnosed with cervical and uterine embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and malignant form of cancer.
However, through months of resilience, courage and a constant smile, she beat cancer.
On March 6, Paige received the news that she was no longer cancer-ridden. On this day, communities across the area breathed a sigh of relief.
On March 6, Paige began her journey back to normalcy.
There is no one way to describe the last six months for Eakright.
“It has definitely been eye-opening,” she said. “The fact that this coincided with my first semester of college made it very hard,” said Paige.
The oh-so-enticing aspect of independence was waiting for her when she came to college, only to be diminished by her predicament. She was not able to stay on campus all the time because she would have appointments and chemo, not being being well enough to return.
“I love my family, but I was so excited to have my own life outside of them,” she said. “I was so ready to be on my own and explore my new independence.”
Not feeling 100 percent independent was difficult for Eakright, but the hardest pill to swallow was the break from volleyball.
The physical limitations she experienced during the season and offseason have been a difficult is healthy a change that she is excited to overcome.
“My legs are now the size my arms used to be, and my arms are like twigs now,” she said.
Many athletes can attest to the itching feeling of wanting to play again after being sick or injured. Coming back to the game is one of the main driving forces for athletes to recover quickly.
The same is true for Eakright, but she also had another motivation — the happiness of those she loves.
“I hate it when people are upset, for any reason,” she said. “I feel that if I have a quick recovery, people won’t be as sad. That’s really important to me.”
If making other people happy makes her happy, then she should be one overjoyed gal because the outpour of thankfulness and praises to God following the news of her remission was monumental. People from local communities, regional areas and even other states have been praying over her fight with cancer.
“I’ve had a group of nuns and a small group from Michigan praying for me throughout this time, along with the Huntington and Fort Wayne communities,” she said. “It has been really cool to see how far the prayer community stretches.”
After overcoming a trial like this, it is easy to look back and see where God has worked through it.
“He definitely kept me calm and gave me a great sense of comfort,” she said. “He kept joy in my life and didn’t allow me to become depressed,” she said.
Eakright said God has used her to show is love to other people during her right, which helped build her truth in Him.
“He has helped me look past the bad and see all the good that has come out of me battling cancer,” she said. “I’ve had many good conversations about faith, and I have a stronger relationship with not only God, but my family as well. They have been a rock for me.”
Following her last visit with her oncologist, Paige will not need any more treatments and will begin remission. She will have to have a check-up every three months for the next two years, but the chemo is finished.
As Paige looks ahead to this next part of her life, her number one goal is to get back on the volleyball court.
“I want to show people how quickly a person can recover from this,” she said. “I want to come back stronger and better than the year before. I can’t wait to be strong again!”
Even though being diagnosed with cancer slowed her academic and athletic life down a little bit, Eakright is still on track to graduate in 2020 with a degree in elementary and special education and will play volleyball in the upcoming fall.
Determination and hope have both been unswaying constants over the last six months for her, and now it is paying off as she stands, ready to continue her life as a college student, finally with a little more freedom.