CORTLAND, N.Y. - Each year, the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) honors individuals for their ability to overcome obstacles and serve as an inspiration to others. Deemed the Award of Valor, recipients exemplify the true meaning of perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome a life-altering event. The SUNYAC wishes to congratulate Rachael Windhausen of Oswego on being one of this year's recipients of the Award of Valor.
Rachael Windhausen is a member of the Oswego women's basketball team. She was coming off an outstanding 2015-16 freshmen campaign for the Lakers; leading the team in blocks (41) and was third on the team in scoring with 10.3 points per game. By the following summer, the now sophomore anticipated an encore performance entering her second year with the program, but before Rachael had even attended her first class of the semester, she was hit with life altering news.
After noticing swelling along her collarbone, both Rachael and her mom felt compelled to seek out a doctor's opinion. Following an extensive two weeks of tests and exams, on August 3, 2015, Rachael was diagnosed with stage-3 Hodgekin's Lymphoma.
Reflecting back on her initial reaction to her diagnoses, Rachael explains,"The diagnosis took a while to set in, I was in the denial stage for a while." Following, as she explains was the "why me?" stage.
"Cancer wasn't supposed to happen to me. I was young, I was healthy, I was athletic, I wasn't supposed to get cancer." Regardless, Rachael, much like a warrior on-the-court, faced her battle with perceiverance and determination.
On August 24, Rachael began the gruelling 12-stage chemotherapy process, which should have been the first day of classes of her sophomore year.
As Rachael battled week after week through the stages of chemotherapy, the basketball season slowly approached and eventually was underway. This was difficult for Rachael to deal with.
"Being away from the team was especially hard. After being on the team for a year and making connections, I was suddently not there anymore. I felt like people were moving on without me."
What helped her see past all the adversity she faced, was her family and unlikely friends that supported her battle. She recalls receiving cards from both Brockport and Geneseo women's basketball teams and when she had her scheduled scans, her mom's hairdresser would bake her cookies.
"It was the little things that helped carry me through the tough times."
Despite her time away from the game she loved to play, Rachael knew she would come back to basketball.
After missing the 2015-16 campaign, Rachael was back and ready to be "better than ever" on the court for the Oswego Lakers this past season. The sophomore forward, started in every game for the Lakers, ranking fourth on the team in points per game, third in field goal percentage, and second in rebounds per game.
Although the Liverpool, N.Y. native was back-in-action this past season, she never forgets and will always appreciate the support she received from her family during her treatments.
"I never would have been able to get through any of this without my family. My mom, dad, and younger brother were constantly there for me." Referring to her mom's support, "She was there to wipe my tears when I felt I couldnt do it anymore. She rubbed my stomach when I was nauseous, listened to me complain, and helped me back up when I was down."
In a brief message to other's facing similiar health complications, Rachael says "...you are always stronger than you think you are. Surviving is a concious choice to not let cancer and chemo get you down. That said, it is okay to cry. It is okay to have bad days, it's how you decide the next day is going to be that matters."
On May 15, the SUNYAC will host its annual Awards Banquet at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool, N.Y., where the conference will honor its award recipients of 2016-17.