From Off the Bench
by Ben Chew
If you’re looking for an inspirational story this weekend, we give you the story of high school tennis player, Jacob Raleigh.
Raleigh played in the Kentucky State High School Tennis Tournament last week and looked like the player that vowed to make it back after disappointment from 2009 tournament. The only difference for the Letcher Central senior was back in 2009, he had two arms. Now, he was only playing with only one.
Back in 2010, Jacob complained of pain in his left wrist and was taken to a doctor where he found out the dire news:
“It hurt bad,” Jacob says. “It got so bad, I couldn’t even hit.”
Eventually, Rick and Tracy Raleigh took their teenage son to a doctor in Bristol, Va. A tumor was removed from Jacob’s wrist, and samples were sent to be evaluated by experts around the country.
At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, they came back with one of the more dreadful diagnoses possible: Cancer. Jacob was told he had Epithelioid Sarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer that usually strikes young adults.
After that, Jacob had only three decisions to make: amputate the arm, try radiation therapy to improve what it could, or attempt a surgery to replace the tendons in his arms with the ones in his leg. Eventually, Jacob and his family chose the surgery but sadly months later, the cancer returned to the arm.
“He said it looked like I had a reoccurrence,” Jacob said. In early October, Jacob went to the hospital prepared to have his left arm amputated.
Says Rick Raleigh: “When we got there, I told the doctors, ‘Once we do this, it’s gone. Isn’t there anything we can do (short of cutting off the arm)?’ ”
Jacob’s left arm was amputated just below the shoulder on Oct. 21, 2010.”I was scared to death,” he says.
However, the story didn’t end there as Jacob was determined to play his senior season of tennis, even if it was only with one-hand. Jacob started the season as #3 on the team’s singles line-up and won seven out of the nine matches he played. When playing doubles, Jacob and his partner qualified for the state tournament with victories in the regional tournament:
So some seven months after he lost his left arm, after he had to relearn his favorite sport right-handed,
Jacob was in Lexington Thursday fulfilling the vow he’d made to himself as a sophomore.”I’m just excited,” he said before the state tourney match. “It means everything to me to be back here.”
Sadly for Jacob, they lost to Henderson County in the tournament, but for Jacob getting back is impressive on so many levels.