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White River's Padgett musters strength for return to the mat
On one side of the Team Kamy T-shirt White River High wrestler Kamyriah Padgett wears is written, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
On the other side is a quote from Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Since November of the 2010-11 wrestling season, Kamy has drawn on her strength, that of her teammates and the community.
Kamy finished seventh at state in February 2010, and in May of 2011 she was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer, rare for someone her age. After surgery and a recent unrelated sore throat that resulted in a tonsillectomy, she returned to the mat Jan. 14 at the Rick Sales Tournament in Fife, where she finished fifth.
She plans to use the last few regular-season tournaments and matches to qualify for postseason with her eye on February’s state tournament.
“It’s my passion,” Kamy said of returning to wrestling. “I only live once. I don’t want to have any regrets. I know I can do anything I put my mind to.”
“I want to finish the year,” she said. “It’s really amazing how I feel when I’m on the mat. I feel like I’m on the top of the world. It’s my happy place.”
Hornet coach Rich Valdez said his heart sank when he caught wind of her cancer.
“When I sat down with her before the season I told her I had no expectation from her whatsoever and if she wanted to wrestle there was no pressure,” he said. “I was just glad she was there, and if she felt healthy enough to wrestle I was there for her, and she was a part of the team and always would be regardless if she never got a match in all season.
“She has a loving way about her and is such a positive person,” said Valdez, who has known the Padgett family for years. “She comes from a family of wrestlers, brothers Brad and Caleb wrestled for White River, and she gets a lot of her competitive nature coming from that background.
“She soon came to me and let me know that she just didn’t know if she could do it,” he said of her return. “I reminded her that there were zero expectations other than my desire for her to be healthy and happy.”
“She’s quite an amazing young lady, strong,” her mother Deena said. “She’s got determination.”
Deena said the experience has been like putting together a jigsaw puzzle one piece at a time.
“She’s been my medical child since the time she was born,” Deena said, going through a laundry list of ailments Kamy has endured since she was young, but this topped them all.
“She had all the symptoms through wrestling season,” Deena said. “She was strong one minute and lethargic the next and we never thought she was going through cancer.”
“They told me I must have a really high pain tolerance,” Kamy said.. “I just paid no mind.”
“She came to me and said it feels like my whole insides are coming out,” Deena said. Within a week, Kamy was in surgery to remove her ovary which had grown to 8 centimeters.
“A normal ovary is the size of an almond, mine was the size of a tennis ball,” Kamy said.
Although Kamy has returned to the sport she loves, she’s not out of the woods. Her postseason plans will also include more tests which could spell bad news.
Deena said, depending on the results, an out-of-state trip for specialized surgery could be in Kamy’s future, or a hysterectomy.
Wrestling keeps her focused, and so does the family’s cause to raise money to help with medical costs not covered by insurance and drive to bring awareness to ovarian cancer.
“They do so much on breast cancer, but they never do anything on ovarian cancer,” Deena said. “It’s one of the silent killers.”
Team Kamy T-shirts are available at The Green Door in downtown Buckley and Deena said she’s grateful to White River students, faculty and family friends who have hosted fundraising activities. A trust has also been established in Kamy’s name at Columbia Bank.
Valdez said it was obviously hard for Kamy at the beginning of the season, but she’s waging a comeback.
“She is a big part of this team, we are glad to have her back and have high hopes she can finish out the season and her senior year with a good strong run of competition,” Valdez said. “So when you come to the state competition, look for Kamy Padgett from White River High School. She’ll be the girl in a maroon and gold singlet with long, dark hair and big, beautiful smile battling as hard as she possibly can against her opponent, cancer and anything else standing in her way.”