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Teenage athlete inspires team while battling cancer

11:38 PM, Jul 26, 2013   |    comments
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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Every sports team has its star player and its star personality. For the St. Louis Gamers fast pitch softball team, 15 year-old Karley Branch is both.

Karley loves a challenge on the field. But right now she's taking on the toughest challenge of her life off the field.

The young athlete has been battling Ewing Sarcoma since April.

"It was pushing on my spinal cord and it caused me to lose feeling in my legs," said Branch.

And it's taken her away from the game and the team she loves so much.

A surgery removed most of the tumor, but left Karley paralyzed below the waist. Doctors said she'd never walk again. It was news that was almost too much for the Branch family.

"You don't want to see them hurting," said Karley's mother Stacey Branch. "You hate to see it. But she's defying the odds."

With the help of chemo and physical therapy, Karley is now able to get around with the help of a walker. She's even made surprise appearances at softball games.

"I just remember how much fun it is and how much I loved it and I just want to get back out there," said Branch.

Getting back on the field is Karley's motivation. But she's an inspiration for those already on it.

"Even if we're losing she's just so supportive and she made me want to work a lot harder," said teammate Breanna Robbins.

Robbins wanted a way to help Karley and her family through their cancer battle. So she and her dad started selling batting helmet stickers with all the proceeds going to the Branch family. And the idea has spread through the entire league.

"I think there's like 50 teams that have the stickers," said Robbins.

"It's fun when I see teams my team is playing and they have the stickers. It just inspires me," said Karley.

"Financially it was such a nice surprise for my husband and I," said Stacey Branch.

Karley still has a long way to go. Doctors haven't given her a timeframe for when she might be able to get back on the field. But sooner or later, Karley plans to knock her cancer out of the park.


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