It was quite a freshman season for Stetson University lacrosse player Paige Levesque in 2013. After recovering from ACL surgery and missing the entire fall season, the attacker recorded 17 goals and four assists en route to Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman Team and All-Tournament Team honors.
However, at the same time Levesque was having success on the field, she was battling health issues off the field.
Beginning before she arrived on campus and continuing throughout the year, Levesque’s weight was fluctuating and she was always tired. She didn’t know why any of it was happening until she went to the doctor and found out she had Hashimoto’s disease, which causes a reduced level of thyroid function. That, in turn, meant that she wasn’t producing enough hormones to regulate her body.
“It was difficult,” Levesque said of her freshman year. “It was like everything was happening at once. I was always tired, and I felt out of it.”
When her condition had not improved after the spring season, Levesque saw a new doctor, who gave her an even-more distressing diagnosis.
“When they first told me ‘you have cancer,’ I looked at my mom and said, ‘you knew that was going to happen.’”
She felt that everything over the course of that year was so difficult for her, so why would this diagnosis be any different?
“Calling the coaches was one of the most difficult things I had to do during this whole experience,” Levesque said. However, just as they had been throughout her freshman year, the Hatter coaches continued to be extremely supportive. “Knowing that support system was there was really helpful. It drove me to fight.”
And fight she did. Levesque had her thyroid gland removed on June 17. Two weeks later, she had treatment that killed off much of the cancer, but it also made her very sick. Two weeks after that, she went in for a full body scan, which showed a few spots of cancer remained in her neck. The continued treatment eventually killed those off.
All the while, Levesque’s coaches and teammates were providing constant support. “There were 20 of us on the team, so I was getting 19 texts repeatedly during the summer,” Levesque said. “They would ask ‘How are you?’ and would let me know they were thinking about me.
“Coach Moore sent pictures of little quotes almost every day,” Levesque added. They said things like ‘keep your head up’ and ‘stay strong.’”
Two months into her sophomore year, Levesque went in for blood work and was told that she was cancer-free. In that moment, as you would expect, she couldn’t have been more excited.
“I was like ‘Yeah! I beat this!’ Everyone was so excited, but then it was like, I’m cancer-free; now I should be able to do anything.”
Now that Levesque has been given a clean bill of health, she isn’t taking anything for granted. Her biggest challenge is to continue to get healthy and into the shape she wants to be in for the start of the 2014 lacrosse season.
Levesque knows that both individually and as a team, this upcoming season can be even better than last, and she credits her team with helping her to be a part of it.
"I wouldn’t be this far along in the healing process if it wasn’t for this program,” she said. “Their support has been instrumental, and getting back to help this team has been a driving force for me to get better.”