Within the fall of 2019, Sydney Harding simply wasn’t feeling like herself.
A superb scholar, the Westford Academy sophomore was main the JV women soccer workforce in targets. Nevertheless, all through the course of the season, one thing was off. When the marketing campaign got here to an finish, Sydney instructed her mom, Nicole, about fixed fatigue, and a bump she had observed on her neck. The household thought it could possibly be mononucleosis, which her sister Jacki had beforehand handled. A go to to the physician revealed one thing else.
The 15-year-old had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of most cancers.
This previous Thursday, Harding, now a 17-year-old senior, was again on the soccer area as a member of the varsity workforce. The Gray Ghosts opened the season with a 1-0 loss to league rival Acton-Boxboro, in a sport performed within the rain and over darkish clouds. None of that mattered to Sydney. She was again fully wholesome, competing within the sport that she loves and extra importantly taking part in alongside her closest associates.
“I felt actually good getting again on the market at this time,” stated Harding. “I’m so excited to be again full time and hopefully have a tremendous season.”
Head coach Katie Anjus is amazed on the stage that Harding is acting at with the season just some weeks outdated.
“She is again to herself and that’s so superior to see,” stated Anjus. “She went from not even having the ability to run for 10 minutes, to now doing double classes, taking part in 60 minutes a sport. She’s an excellent constructive child, keen to do something and all the things. She’s an amazing teammate and everyone simply enjoys being round her.”
Harding is the third of 4 daughters to Glenn and Nicole. Older sisters Jacki and Kaely are at the moment in faculty at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia and UMass-Amherst, respectively. Molly is at the moment a sophomore at Westford Excessive. All 4 are athletes. Jacki was a terrific sprinter and was a part of varied faculty information and league championship relay groups, and continues to be competing on the collegiate stage. She was a a number of choice to the Solar All-Star groups. Kaely was a two-time captain of the swim workforce, and Molly performs nearly each sport.
Glenn was a former soccer participant at UMass-Amherst and regardless of having 4 daughters, spent a few years as a youth soccer coach on the town.
All 4 daughters additionally do nicely within the classroom. They’re shut in age with Jacki 20, Kaely 19, Sydney 17 and Molly 16 – and very shut as siblings. “The three women all get together with Sydney, extra so than one another generally,” stated Nicole. “Sydney is type of the glue within the household.”
One thing is off
In early November 2019, when the JV soccer season was over, it was time to go to the physician.
The final appointment of the day, Sydney’s mother was greatly surprised when requested to return the following morning. They wished to do additional testing for mono, in addition to a chest X-Ray and extra blood screening.
“I may simply inform the strain within the air that they had been feeling one thing else,” Nicole stated. “I felt like (the physician) was nervous.”
The subsequent day, the docs urged her dad and mom to take Sydney to Emerson Hospital for a CT scan. There was one thing on the X-ray.
Dismissing her from class, Sydney and her mother arrived on the physician’s workplace, the place she was requested to take one other check. As her daughter left the room, the docs delivered the information to the anxious mom.
It seemed to be lymphoma.
“I used to be shocked once they stated most cancers,” Nicole stated. “As a result of I had thought all alongside that it was mono.”
When Syndney returned, the mom broke the information to her daughter. It was an emotional second for the pair.
“There have been quite a lot of tears,” stated Sydney. “My thoughts went to the worst immediately. I didn’t know what lymphoma was, all I knew was that it was most cancers. That was my greatest concern ever, my entire life (that I’d get it) as a result of I fear a lot. I used to be simply actually scared and I didn’t know what was coming. Nobody knew. It was simply quite a lot of unknowns. It was undoubtedly a scary day.
Six months to overlook
Simply 24 hours after getting the information that she had lymphoma, a number of days after operating round a soccer area, Sydney’s life fully modified.
She headed to Youngsters’s Hospital for an onslaught of pulmonary perform testing. A biopsy was additionally taken of one in all her lymph nodes. Two days later physician’s confirmed that it was Stage-4 Most cancers.
“It was within the lungs, and she or he had a cumbersome mass round her coronary heart,” stated Nicole. “However due to the lung involvement, that’s what makes it Stage-4 because it’s a significant organ.”
The excellent news was that Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 15- to 19-year-olds, is very curable.
Sydney went for her first chemotherapy remedy on Nov. 7.
“It was undoubtedly an emotional roller-coaster,” Sydney recalled. “I used to be feeling good on the times that I didn’t have chemo and the times that I did, it was simply terrible. You felt such as you had the flu, however occasions 10. There was quite a lot of nausea, the hair loss clearly wasn’t simple (neither had been) the uncomfortable side effects. I used to be consistently taking tablets, going to the docs and I simply felt like I wasn’t residing a traditional life. It was like I used to be going via the motions.”
She additionally felt it take a giant toll on her psychological well being as nicely.
“Even afterwards and nonetheless (at this time) I can get a little bit fearful,” Sydney stated. “I took excellent care of myself. I attempted my greatest to be round everybody as a lot as I may. I didn’t wish to draw back from faculty or my associates. I surrounded myself across the individuals who I really like and simply tried to make myself as completely satisfied as I may, however generally you want an excellent cry. I cried lots.”
Sydney went via six completely different cycles of the remedy. The cycles had been completely different every time, generally 5 days in a row, a break day and three days, or three in a row after which per week off, it diverse.
“Instantly the docs had been very constructive about her prognosis,” Nicole stated.
Two months after her first session, one other scan revealed her chest was clear. They nonetheless needed to end the entire six months of remedy, nevertheless, due to a doable relapse. She had chemotherapy on Christmas Eve and New 12 months’s Eve, and nonetheless went out to be together with her associates. All through all of it, Sydney approached her analysis with an amazing angle, whereas making an attempt to take care of some sense of normalcy. She continued to attend faculty when she may and loved being round her associates.
“She wore a little bit hat,” Nicole stated. “She didn’t wish to shave her head, so she didn’t. She had her little wispy hairs protruding of her hat. She went in all places with the hat on and simply continued together with her life.”
Sydney was bolstered by a strong group of associates cheering her on each step of her journey. Just a few of them organized a Sydney Sturdy Fundraiser, promoting bracelets.
The cash raised was supposed for Sydney, however she in the end determined to donate the proceeds to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a childhood most cancers fundraiser.
For these months, Sydney’s life was turned fully the other way up. Nothing was the identical, she was weak bodily, mentally, and emotionally.
“The primary two cycles had been nausea and hair loss,” stated Sydney. “And the final 4 cycles had been much less nausea, much less hair loss however extra bloating, which was painful at occasions. I used to be simply sick of being sick. I knew my psychological well being was on the decline. I’d really feel numb in my fingertips.”
Whereas the chemotherapy was actually working, Sydney’s physique continued to get weaker and weaker.
“The chemotherapy takes a toll,” Nicole stated. “She continued to be away from the most cancers the entire time. We by no means had a setback with that, it’s simply the chemo actually takes a toll in your blood, so she was getting weaker and weaker. By the tip, she did want a blood transfusion.”
Lengthy highway to restoration
As her six months of chemotherapy was coming to an finish, one other disaster hit in March 2020: COVID-19.
Simply 12 days after they closed the faculties, Sydney had her final remedy, March 24. Family and friends commemorated the second with a little bit parade on the town.
“That was very nice,” stated Nicole. “Folks had been ringing bells all the best way from our home to (Route) 495.”
The lockdown supplied the proper alternative for Sydney to recuperate. She was so sick and drained that it was good simply to have a while to heal.
At the moment, huge sister Jacki returned residence from faculty, giving the siblings loads of time of time to bond.
Sydney shaved her head whereas getting ready for a visit to Florida with the Dana Farber group, nevertheless it was in the end cancelled as a result of pandemic.
The remainder of March and all of April, Sydney simply wanted time to recuperate. In direction of the center to the tip of Might, she slowly began to really feel a bit stronger however couldn’t have finished it with out her three greatest associates.
“My sisters had been all actually supportive of me all through all of it,” Sydney stated. “They had been rallying round me, and I used to be fortunate to have them to have them as my help. When Jacki was in school, she was shopping for the entire ‘Sydney Sturdy’ bracelets together with her associates. I used to be fortunate to have them.”
By Memorial Day weekend, Sydney discovered herself doing greater than she had within the earlier weeks and months. The subsequent step was returning to the sector.
“Actually, I feel I simply wanted time to heal, let my hair develop again, construct my confidence again up and all of that,” she stated. “It simply all took time. There are nonetheless occasions once I really feel my neck and fearful that there’s a lump, however I’ve at all times been like that. I get anxious. I simply don’t need something to occur ever once more.”
Quickly after that weekend getaway, Glenn took the initiative to get his daughter off the sofa, exterior and again to herself.
“We’d go for walks,” Sydney stated. “Finally we’d do walks that had actually steep hills and what’s usually simple for different individuals was arduous for me. I used to be getting out of breath actual simple. Then after we began to run, I may solely do like 30 steps at a time earlier than I finished as a result of I used to be getting so drained. It was across the finish of June once I may run a full mile. I labored lots in the direction of that and simply purposeful coaching alone to get my muscle mass again up.”
“(My dad) actually linked with me emotionally,” she added. “I feel he was the one who actually pushed me for the figuring out side. He was a rock and he was undoubtedly there as a lot as my mother – they had been each there for me lots, an actual lot.”
The gradual walks changed into gradual runs, which changed into mile runs.
Returning to the sector
In direction of the tip of final yr’s soccer season, Sydney performed in a number of JV video games right here and there and she or he additionally performed a couple of minutes of 1 varsity sport.
“When she obtained on the sector for the primary time final yr, the bench simply went nuts, simply cheering and screaming for her,” stated Andjus.
And so was Sydney, internally.
“I used to be undoubtedly stunned with how simple it felt with my foot going to the ball. I assumed I’d be tripping over myself and be out of breath. And I used to be out of breath, however I undoubtedly obtained again to it faster that I assumed I’d,” she stated. “The energy and the coaching stuff undoubtedly helped. Earlier than I obtained again out onto the sector, I labored with Tracey lots, so we did quite a lot of 1-on-1 coaching and she or he is such an amazing coach to have. She knew me so nicely; she knew once I wanted a break, and I used to be actually fortunate to have her.
“As soon as I did lastly get again on the market, I used to be simply so excited and so completely satisfied to be taking part in. It was a lot enjoyable, I liked it. I bear in mind she was placing me in for 10-minute shifts and once I got here out, I used to be simply so excited with the considered going again in. I simply wished to maintain on taking part in. Tracey didn’t wish to run me into the bottom. I used to be so excited, however she knew what was greatest for me and gave me relaxation once I wanted it.”
Twenty-two months in the past, Sydney Harding was instructed she had lymphoma. Eighteen months in the past, she ended her final chemotherapy session. At this time she is operating round soccer fields, with smiles from ear-to-ear.
“I simply really feel so grateful contemplating the circumstances,” she stated. “Issues may have been worse, and issues additionally may have been higher. I’m simply fortunate proper now (to be wholesome once more) and all of us simply really feel fortunate.”
In keeping with Nicole, the outpouring of help has been overwhelming.
“The city (of Westford has been so unimaginable),” Nicole stated. “I can’t actually clarify issues that arrived her for her, presents and present playing cards and other people you wouldn’t even consider simply they have you ever on their thoughts and are praying for you. It was simply unbelievable really.”
As soon as this soccer season ends, Sydney plans on devoting her time into determining the place she’s going to spend the following 4 years of her life with faculty. She has toured a number of faculties and stated proper now she is occupied with Penn State, Syracuse, UMass-Amherst, UNH and URI.
“(I’m going to main in) Communications Issues and Speech Pathology – that’s the objective proper now,” she stated.
Till then, she has different targets – actually.
“I wish to rating extra targets than I did on JV (two years in the past), so I had 9, so 10 can be good,” she stated with fun.