The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News 2

April 13, 2014

Bailey beats cancer, returns to football field

— Rhett Bailey is on schedule to graduate from Elkmont High School next month. It hasn’t been easy.

The three-sport athlete has faced and overcome multiple physical obstacles.

While his friends were living the life of normal teenagers, Bailey, just in the past three years, beat cancer and endured five surgeries.

His tumultuous journey began in April 2011 when he was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. He was told he would never play sports again.

Bailey had other plans.

After multiple surgeries, five rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and lots of prayer, Bailey returned to the field in October 2012 where he a caught a touchdown pass in his first game back.

He finished his junior season playing basketball and baseball and entered his senior football season with high hopes.

After months of preparation and feeling fit for the first time since surgery — another setback. Bailey left the field in an ambulance after taking a hard hit to the ribs in the season opener against Ardmore.

Once again, he fought through the pain and returned to the team to finish his senior season and earn all-county honors.

“When I was worried about first coming back to play baseball, my dad told me I couldn’t go through life being scared,” said Bailey. “No matter what my physical condition, I’m just going to enjoy my life the best I can.”

Bailey finished football and began practicing for his final season of high school basketball when a severe pain became too much for even him to bear. A visit to the doctor brought news of yet another needed surgery.

“I usually don’t complain that much, but it got to the point where I couldn’t do anything,” said Bailey. “After the surgery, my doctor told me I couldn’t do (sports) again.”

He handled the news surprisingly well.

“I’ve been told that a lot,” said Bailey. “I knew this one was serious, though. I was prepared for that. I was looking forward to playing baseball. It was hard on me because I got back physically to where I was supposed to be, and was having a good senior year.”

For hardship and achievements, Bailey was selected as the 3A Region 8 Bryant-Jordan Award winner. He will travel to Birmingham Monday for the Bryant-Jordan banquet, where individual class winners will be announced.

“I would do it all over again,” said Bailey. “I was just happy to be out there and have one more shot at it. I’m just happy I got to do what I did.”

 

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