Meredith Bissette: Tumor has not spread
If USF sophomore Meredith Bissette has her way, the surprise cameo she made at Thursday night's Sneaker Soiree won't be her only emotional return to the bay area.
Bissette, forced to leave the Bulls softball team upon being diagnosed with pelvic cancer in early April, said she still has a goal of returning to the team for the 2017 season. First, she must undergo a sequence of medical procedures in August, then assess the risks involved with resuming her athletic career.
"Right now, yeah, I would love to go back, but we'll see when it gets here," said Bissette, presented one of two Sports Community Hero awards at the Sneaker Soiree. "That's my process right now."
Bissette's appearance at the sold-out event, in the works for roughly six weeks, marked one of the evening's most poignant moments. The event had just commenced when teammates Cassidy Boyle and Lauren Evans were called to the stage, presumably to accept the award on Bissette's behalf. Bissette then emerged from behind the curtain.
Neither player had any idea Bissette, who secretly flew to Tampa with her dad Wednesday night, would be there. Neither did USF softball sports-information director Lindsey Morrison. Coach Ken Eriksen, unable to attend due to USA Softball commitments, wasn't informed of her appearance until the 11th hour.
But Bissette said she had been in contact with Tampa Bay Sports Commission special-events director Claire Lessinger about the surprise appearance for several weeks.
"She was like, 'Yeah, we heard your story, we followed you and we wanted to have you here,'" said Bissette, who got her first collegiate base hit only days before her diagnosis. "I was like, 'Okay!'"
In what has been deemed a "medical mystery," the pelvic cancer is gone, Bissette said. Currently, she's battling a giant-cell bone tumor and aneurysmal bone cyst that has remained confined to her lower back.
"In my case I'm very lucky because it has the ability to metastasize to your lungs," she said. "It's not cancer, but it can still grow tumors in your lungs. And mine has not spread."
In mid-August, she'll undergo an embolization, in which blood flow to the tumor is cut off. A few days later, she said the tumor will be surgically resected in a procedure that will include the insertion of pins and rods.
Doctors have told her she'll be able to walk the same day she has the surgery. As for softball?
"(The doctor) said, 'That's up to you, because you could get hit really hard and mess up the rods, but that's not likely,'" Bissette said.
"So what I say to myself is, I'll cross that road when it gets there. I would love to play, but it's scary, you know. Going through all that surgery, do I want to go through it again just because of one collision? So it's scary, it's a lot to think about."