More often than not, women are stereotyped as soft and weak. But that cannot be said for Jillion Potter, team captain of the US women’s rugby team. Born on July 5, 1986 in Austin, Texas, Jillion first fell in love with rugby in the year 2005. This was during her college days at the University of New Mexico. It was not long before she was discovered and that same year, she was drafted for the US under-19 women’s team. In 2007, she made her debut in the Women’s Eagles team.
Tragedy happened in 2010 when she suffered a neck injury in a game against the Canadian women’s rugby team. Initial diagnosis said she would not be able to play rugby anymore. This shattered her dream of playing in what would have been her first World Cup that year. She felt lost. She didn’t know what would be next for her, having devoted much of her waking hours to the sport.
A surgery proved to be a turning point for her and she did not only play in one world cup but her team also won bronze in the 2013 Women’s Rugby World Cup (Sevens Series) in Moscow, Russia. The following year, despite of a growing lump in her neck, she played again for the World Cup 15s in France. Upon her return, it was discovered that she was already in the advanced stage of synovial sarcoma, one of the rarest forms of soft tissue cancer in the world.
In December 2015, only 14 months after her diagnosis, she was able to play as captain of the US team in the Women’s Sevens Series in Dubai. In the interview, she candidly opens up about her months under treatment. She talks about having to deal with hair loss and not just on her scalp, but also her eyebrows and eyelashes. She talked about feeling less of a woman because of this side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. But she assures, “You’re still the same person regardless of how you look in the mirror.”
She also talks about having to deal with doubts and fears and other feelings of inadequacy. But she did not allow herself to succumb to depression, which is truly admirable. She says, “I’m just grateful to be here.” And encourages to, “Keep moving forward and have a positive approach.” Her attitude has earned her the badge of “fighter and warrior” by her fellow rugby players all over the world. In turn, she also attributes that the support of her immediate family as well as that of the entire world rugby family gave her the strength to pull through.
On track to play in the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro, Jillion has this to say, “I hope it can show people that they can still pursue their dreams when the worst has happened to them.” Jillion has found her passion and purpose in rugby; and for us spectators, the message of her life is clear: “You are the light of the world…In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14,16)
Your biggest opponent is yourself. May you overcome it today.
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