— "Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul."
ELKMONT - When Rhett Bailey scored for Elkmont to tie the score in Friday night’s game against West Limestone, it was more than six points on the scoreboard. For Rhett and his family, it was a storybook ending to a tumultuous 18-month journey.
A junior at Elkmont High School, Rhett was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in April 2011 and told soon after he would never be able to play contact sports again. On Friday night, Rhett not only played football again, he caught a 60-yard touchdown pass on his first play back.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I never thought I’d be able to go back out there,” Rhett said. “I couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights leading up to it. Once I got out there, I had such an adrenaline rush. I ran straight to my family that was right there after I scored. I saw my mom and dad crying, my grandparents crying. It wasn’t really about scoring a touchdown. It was about how the power of prayer works.”
After three major surgeries, five rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and lots of prayer, Rhett went to see a vascular surgeon last week for an update on the blood clot that kept him away from the game he loved so much.
“We went to the doctor’s office, expecting to hear that it was still there,” Rhett said. “They told me that the blood clot was gone and I was cleared to play again.”
Bailey made the most of his first game since his freshman year. The junior wide receiver made his debut in the second quarter, lining up alongside his brother, Jared, near the visitor’s sideline, trailing West Limestone 14-8.
“I asked my brother what the play was because I didn’t hear it,” Rhett said. “I saw what the play was and I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe they are going to me the first time I’m back out here.’ I ran my pass pattern and caught the ball. I just saw that goal line and me. I had such an adrenaline rush I knew nobody was going to touch me from there. “