In the summer of 2012, Brooke Anderson, a 13-year-old 7th grader, was involved in volleyball, basketball, track, and softball at her junior high and also participated on traveling teams. She sprained an ankle during a volleyball practice that summer and it would not heal. She continued to have difficulty and medical doctors sent her to a foot/ankle specialist for evaluation. They were puzzled as to why her ankle would not heal. For several months, many things were tried unsuccessfully. Then, by early summer, we were noticing she had lost a lot of weight since the first of the year (43 pounds). Again, we returned to the doctor for evaluation only to be told that at her age, girls go through a lot of changes. She began sleeping a lot and needed frequent naps. She was having severe leg pain and cramps. We then returned to the doctor for a sport physical and expressed our concern over her symptoms. That fall, she began eighth grade. By mid-October, she had gone from being an A student to failing. She was having problems with her vision and ’t see the white boards. The school nurse was calling us regularly, as she was in her office sound asleep and they ’t wake her or keep her awake in class.
In early November, we were called by the school nurse. Brooke was in so much leg pain that we took her to the doctor and they finally did some blood work. They called us a few hours later and said we needed to get a scan and ultrasound as soon as possible. The next day, we went to Fort Dodge for the tests. We were told they would let us know the results in about a week. The turnaround was much quicker than expected. The next day, I received a call stating she needed to see an endocrinologist, but it would be 30 days before they had an opening. All Brooke’s records had been sent to a doctor at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. The next day, we received a call from the doctor’s office saying we needed to be at Blank Children’s Hospital at 7:45 tomorrow morning.
We headed to Des Moines to find out that our daughter had a tumor on her thyroid and that she had Graves’ Disease. After consulting with the doctor, we decided to treat the tumor with medication to shrink it. Within two weeks, we noticed Brooke was having difficulty breathing, and swallowing food was becoming very difficult. The doctor informed us the tumor was getting much larger and had to be removed because it was cutting off her esophagus and wind pipe. Her resting heart rate had also changed—it was 144, creating more fatigue. She continued to try and play basketball, which she had to stop. By now, it was the first week of December and she was referred to an otolaryngologist for surgery. She also went to a speech pathologist, as they thought her vocal cords may have been impacted. She finally had surgery on December 28th.
Brooke was depleted and became so weak through all of this that when she asked the doctor when she could return to sports, she received the devastating news that it would be a few years if she could ever regain her strength. She was told any sport with contact would require waiting three to five years. She stayed busy by becoming the manager for all of the sports she could no longer play. Wanting to participate in athletics again, Brooke said to her dad that summer, “I wonder if they would let me play golf?” At Brooke’s next appointment, she asked if she could try golf. The doctor said it would probably be okay since there was no contact. She was also told not to be disappointed if she ’t have the strength to do it. But she could try.
Her dad joined the local country club and bought her some used clubs. He began teaching her the game of golf. Many days he came home saying, “I just don’t know if this is going to work for her.” That fall, Brooke started her freshman year of high school. Throughout the winter, she and her dad would go to the multipurpose room at the high school and practice hitting golf balls at least once a week. That spring, Brooke went out for golf and was so excited when she came home. She told us she made the varsity team.
She did alright that year, but we could see she just ’t have the strength to carry clubs and walk more than nine holes. By the end of nine, she was worn out and had no strength left. We invested in a pull cart after convincing her it would be okay to use one. That summer, she spent a lot of time at the golf course working on her game. Winter rolled around, and she began hitting weekly with her dad and lifting some weights to try to regain her strength.
She had a good sophomore year. She had a rewarding season, winning medalist honors at a few meets, followed by a team conference championship. She earned a 2 place individual finish in her district. Her team also won districts, earning a trip to the state golf tournament, where the team finished second.
That summer, she played the Iowa Junior tournament, improving her game. Then began her junior year, and again, she returned to the weight room and weekly hitting in the off season. The team won the conference championship, and she was the individual conference champion. She went on to win their district, earning them a trip back to the state tournament. They finished in fifth place. The season ended with Brooke receiving honors. In her senior season of 2017, Brooke did the usual off-season hitting and workouts every day. Humboldt won both conference and district championships and captured the Class 4A state team championship. Brooke placed second as an individual in the conference tournament, and tied for second, but finished third on the hole. Brooke earned first team all-state her senior year.
Determination and drive to prove the doctors wrong has changed Brooke from being a “you will never be good enough” to a “you are good enough” state champion. That is what makes Brooke an inspiration in my eyes. Brooke went on to play one golf season at St. Catherine University in St Paul, ., but has since returned to Iowa State University to continue her education and worked her way to being on the Dean’s List. She still continues her love of golf by helping out in little kid golf clinics and helping out any of her golfing friends from high school.
-submitted by Brooke's Mother
The IGHSAU is committed to sharing the stories of high school female athletes. We believe a strong narrative can empower and inspire other females to try more, go the distance, and persevere in the face of hardship. That's why we want you -- parent, friend, athlete, coach -- to share the story of an Iowa Girl that inspires you. What makes their story special? What have they overcome or accomplished? Is there something beyond the sport that makes their story especially unique? We want to know.
To submit, you can either:
1. Email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Post your story on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with #ShareHerStory and tag @IGHSAU
Be sure to include the athlete's name, school, and a picture!