Anna Hietpas has always had a love for sports. Last year, as a freshman at Little Chute high, Anna participated in cross country, basketball and track. It was actually her involvement in athletics that lead to an early diagnosis of what can be a deadly disease.
"It was hard to breathe for me and we were just going to the doctors trying to figure out what was wrong," Anna explained.
"It only happened when she did, like she over exerted herself. When she got to strenuous exercise her lips would turn blue and she couldn't breathe," Anna's mother Sara weighed in.
At 15 years old Anna was told she had Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
"It was not something you expected to hear that our daughter had cancer."
Anna handled the devastating news and each hurdle along the way with poise, maturity and most importantly a positive attitude...
"It was difficult to tell her what the doctors told us but her reaction was kind of like ok well what's the next step then? Where do we go from here. And I think we both learned a lot from one of our kids," Anna's father Todd said.
Anna endured four rounds of chemo and 3 weeks of radiation. Support from the community poured in. Each day, new cards would arrive. Anna's mom started hanging them around the kitchen.
"It's crazy like you don't even know how many people are thinking about you and it was just really cool to read those cards and see how much people care," Anna said.
Throughout treatment, Anna couldn't wait to get better and return to sports. That was her motivation.
"Through the whole process she would be always referencing I can't wait until cross country starts, I can't wait to get back on the basketball court, that type of thing," Todd explained.
Her teammates were instrumental in her recovery, by her side the entire way And when she beat cancer, they celebrated the win. They were by her side as she cut loose balloon after balloon, each representing a treatment Anna completed. She worked hard to return to cross country. Racing again was a sign she was back to being a normal teenager.
"It felt awesome! It felt really good just to be able to go back out there," Anna said.
"It was the most emotional thing I think I've ever been thru in my life it was pretty special. When she ran across that finish line it was cool, very cool," Sara stated.
"You just really appreciate all the little things, and just to be healthy and like playing sports is really cool. You really realize how lucky you really are."
For now, the cards still decorate the family's kitchen... Anna is not quite ready to take them down, She may be cured, but she's still healing and seeing them and what they stand for is the best remedy.