One Armed High School Tennis Player Inspires Others by Making It to State Tournament

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tennis1Life never stops for anyone, it is up to you to want to continue moving forward, or focus on a set back. Nobody will ever force you to choose your life, it is completely your decision to select the type of life you to choose to live. Some people like Jacob Raleigh, despite all the luxuries, aimed to do something extraordinary with his as an inspiration to many. What sets him apart from other tennis players is the fact that he has one arm, losing it to cancer. He had to teach himself how to play all over again, but this time, with the only arm he had left.

After losing the first round of the 2009 Kentucky State Tennis championship, Jacob as a part of Letcher Country Central, promised himself that he’d get back to the state tournament before his high school days were over. As promised, he played in the Kentucky’s State High School Tennis Tournament in 2011 and looked like the player that vowed to make it back after the 2009 disappointment. His passion and dedication can be seen clearly on the tennis court. The only difference for the Letcher Central senior was that back in 2009, Jacob had two arms

tennis2Back in 2010 Jacob experienced pain in his left wrist and when taken to a doctor where a tumor was removed from his wrist, and samples were sent to be evaluated by experts around the country. The reports suggested one of the most dreadful diseases: cancer. Jacob was told he had Epithelioid Sarcoma, a rare-soft tissue cancer that generally strikes young adults. Jacob recalls, “It hurt bad, it got so bad, I couldn’t even hit.” After that, there were three decisions to be made: try radiation therapy to improve what it could, amputate the arm or attempt a surgery to replace the tendons in his arms with the ones in his leg. Eventually, Jacob and his family chose the surgery, but unfortunately months later the cancer returned to the arm.

His father recalls, “When we got there, I told the doctors, once we do this, it’s gone. Isn’t there anything we can do (short of cutting off the arm)?” Jacob’s left arm was amputated just below the shoulder on Oct. 21, 2010. “I was scared to death,” Jacob said.

Despite all, the loss of his arm didn’t shatter his courage and the promise that he had made to himself. He was determined to play his senior season of tennis, even if it was only with one hand. Jacob started as #3 on the team’s singles line-up and won 7 out of the 9 matches he played. When playing doubles, he and his partner qualified for the state tournament with victories in the regional tournament. Some 7 months after he lost his left arm and taught himself how to relearn his favorite sport with his right hand.

Before the state tourney match, he said, “I’m just excited; it means everything to me to be back here.”

This young tennis player is an inspiration to many, teaching us the importance of recreating the events in our lives. The choice is ours. We can either focus on the negative, or accept the current situation while transforming where it takes us in the future. What’s decision?

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