The squeak of the shoes. The pounding of the heavy, rubber ball. The blaring buzzer counting down the last few seconds as a brave hand deftly thrusts the ball toward the net, scoring the winning point as fans scream from the stands.
A CAREER-ENDING INJURY
Whether she was on the court or keeping tabs at the sidelines, the thrill of basketball was always a part of Samantha Murray’s life. Being a dedicated athlete throughout her years at Stevenson University, she was unsurprised to find discomfort creeping up from behind her knee during her junior season. Dedicated to her teammates, she continued to play, figuring it was a minuscule injury that could wait to be treated later.
However, months later, the pain persisted. Murray still laughed it off – she had done little physical rehabilitation, and she admitted she was a baby when it came to pain. In fact, it was a running joke in the locker room. All evaluations had gone smoothly as well: The joint itself looked great and her range of motion was normal. She continued to chalk it up to a small injury and a low tolerance for pain.
But by summer, she could no longer ignore the discomfort. She was referred to the team physician, and then to a colleague for an MRI, and then the referrals came more rapidly. By August 2013, Sam was given the unfortunate news that a 5-inch tumor had taken residence on her bones.
“My mind didn’t even go that route,” her trainer, Jaime Harris, said. “When she told me, it was just shocking silence.”
There was no time for delay. By October, Murray was scheduled for surgery to treat Parosteal Osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that required the full replacement of her knee.
It was a rough couple of months, but Murray had the full support of her teammates and the Stevenson community to help her. That year, instead of the normal pink game played for breast cancer, her teammates wore yellow jerseys and carried yellow roses, chanting the phrase, “All hail Sam,” their “golden child.” The women’s soccer team sent her a card in the hospital, and her coaches visited her. She was allowed the time off she needed to recover and still graduate with her master’s degree.
“This place is awesome,” Murray said. “Awesome place to work. Awesome place to be a student athlete…It’s people who make a place. I am grateful for the people I had around me at that time.”
Fast-forward to this October, when Murray is celebrating being four years cancer free.
“Even four years later, it hasn’t really sunk in,” Murray said. She continues to go to appointments, but besides the special knee hidden beneath her sweatpants, you would never know she had cancer.
“She has had a pretty good recovery,” Harris said. “Heck, she’s beating us all in racquetball!”
“I love my job,” Murray said. “Other than getting paid to watch sports for a living, [it’s] not strictly a 9-5 job where I sit at my desk.” She admits it can be hard sometimes to have a social life, but she tries not to let her job get in the way of living.
“Life is short and you don’t know what tomorrow brings,” Murray said. “I want to look back and not think, ‘oh, I should have done this.’”
She also notes that it’s still the players on the field that keep her motivated. “I do what I do for them,” she said. “I want to make it the best experience for them as possible because their four years comes and goes in the blink of the eye. That was me not too long ago.”
With that sentiment, Murray hopes her players and the rest of the Stevenson community make the most of their days as well. “I try and live with no regrets,” Murray said. “And that isn’t just because I had cancer. I can honestly say that I enjoy waking up every day.”
She hopes that you can say the same.