North Arizona Lumberjacks swimmer battles thyroid cancer, inspires teammates along the way | Local

CASSANDRA HATCHER NAU Sports Information

Emma Warner joined the Northern Arizona swim and dive team in 2020 as a true rookie, achieving a goal she set for herself shortly after her third surgery during her battle against papillary thyroid cancer.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer, my goal was to swim in college,” Warner said. “Coach Andy (Johns) contacted me when I was diagnosed and made me an honorary member, and that’s when I knew this was the direction I wanted to go. I didn’t think I would go to Division I, but Andy has been by my side through it all.”

Warner has been swimming since he was around 6 years old and was diagnosed with cancer when he was 12 years old. Not only was she trying to balance a normal life as a preteen, but she now had to learn to do everything besides doctor visits and battling cancer she didn’t even realize she could handle. ‘affect.

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“I wasn’t a normal kid. I had to take a lot out of school, so I was doing my homework mostly in the hospital or at home because I had surgeries or treatments. I was recovering from swimming and I would come back to where I was and then I have to have surgery again and do it all over again,” Warner said.

The junior learned about perseverance and hard work early in life, putting her goals ahead of her and noting her battle with cancer as a pivotal situation that motivates her to dream big and achieve her goals.

“After my third surgery, I said to myself that I wanted to achieve goals, and my three goals were to break the school record for my race, to become a state champion and to go to university. Those are my three goals that I set for myself and if it didn’t happen, I knew I had tried, but it was something I had to achieve to get through it all,” Warner said.

Warner made these goals his freshman year of high school and eventually achieved them all. She broke — and still holds — the school record in the 100-meter breaststroke at Mingus Union High School, and she also qualified for the state championship during her four-year college swimming career. The senior year arrived and Warner won the state championship in the 100 breaststroke.

Reaching the goals was less of a motive for Warner than the journey; it was more about working for them and proving to herself that she could come back as a survivor. After achieving two of her goals, Warner joined the Lumberjacks swim and dive team, realizing she had what it took and was surrounded by the support system that got her there. .

Dealing with such uncertainty at such a young age would be difficult for anyone, but with teammates, coaches and loved ones by his side through it all, Warner has only used it as fuel to carry on. a business she had already started during an academic career.

“My mum was by my hospital bed every time I had surgery and radiation, she took care of me for long nights just to make sure I was okay. I credit my strength to my mum, because if she can be strong, I know I can be strong,” Warner said.

Warner didn’t stop setting goals after joining a DI program. With two years left in her college career and after respiratory problems hampered her competition last season, she has set herself new goals. Warner wants to compete throughout the season, qualify for the WAC Championships and has also set a goal of scoring points for the team in the conference meet.

Warner continues to live with papillary thyroid cancer in her lungs, neck and chest – something you couldn’t tell from watching her swim and cheer on her teammates during competitions and everyday life.

She often mentions her Northern Arizona teammates as huge inspirations for her journey, but Johns says it’s completely the opposite, as she touched every teammate with support and inspires them all.

“My future is so important to me because it could have been taken away from me at any time. I always look to the future because I don’t take it for granted. I don’t live in the moment, I live for what I want to achieve,” Warner said.

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