It started with back ache.
Occasional aches and pains wouldn’t have surprised Olivia Battye. They are part and parcel of a collegiate tennis career.
But when the budding English tennis star first visited the doctor for upper back pain in 2009, the initial diagnosis didn’t quite match what Battye was instinctively concerned about.
“The doctors I went to said it was a muscle problem,” Battye said. “As an athlete, I’m more aware of my body and I knew it was something more than that.”
And it was.
Still a teenager, Battye was diagnosed in 2009 with stage four Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in bone or soft tissue.
Four years later and 5,000 miles from home, Battye is cancer free and captain of the Sam Houston State women’s tennis team.
After seeking a second opinion and having medical imaging done, doctors concluded the source of her cancer. Battye said the tumor spread from the top of her back into her nerves, causing her to experience frequent numbness in her legs.
Two weeks later, surgeons operated on her, and she spent the better part of 2010 confined to a hospital bed.
During her recovery, Battye began questioning her return to tennis.
During her treatment she produced a series of YouTube videos that SHSU head tennis coach Jim Giachino discovered during Battye’s recruitment as a transfer student from Troy University. Her positive attitude throughout the videos gave insight into her character, Giachino said.
“It was amazing to see how upbeat and positive she was about the entire situation,” Giachino said. “Doctors had told her she had a 5 percent chance to live