Former USF softball player Meredith Bissette, who graduated this past spring while conquering cancer, has been named a 2018 Wilma Rudolph Award winner by the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals.
The award honors student-athletes who have overcome great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics. The five honorees will be honored next month at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
A power hitter from Raleigh, N.C., Bissette was diagnosed with chordoma cancer in March 2016, days after getting her first college base hit. Chordoma cancer surfaces anywhere along the spine (from head to tailbone) and affects one out of a million people annually.
In Bissette's case, a baseball-sized tumor was detected on her lower spine. Though normally slow-growing, chordomas are relentless and can recur after treatment, according to chordomafoundation.org.
That August, she underwent three surgeries (totaling roughly 20 hours) in a four-day span, then was forced to undergo another procedure about six months later.
Meantime, she developed femoral head necrosis, meaning her body struggled to supply blood flow to her hips leading to a double hip surgery in her future, according to USF. As for the cancer, Bissette said in February doctors have detected no evidence of the disease in her body.
Earlier this year, she re-joined the Bulls in an off-field capacity, keeping score at home games and helping coordinate early-season tournaments. Earlier this month, she received her degree in health sciences.