RICHMOND, Va. — Her bright smile might blind you to the fact that Tracy Akers, a senior at the University of Richmond, has suffered and lost more in the last year than most can imagine.
Akers was diagnosed with a rare and serious bone disease when she was a freshman in high school.
“About every two years my orthopedic oncologist would go in and replace my tibia bone with someone else’s femur bone – I had about eight surgeries on my leg since this started happening,” Akers said.Despite her condition, Akers walked onto the University of Richmond’s varsity women’s basketball team her freshman year. She was forced to retire from the court once the state of her leg bone started causing meniscus and ACL tears.
In December 2015 her ritualistic leg surgery changed drastically.
Akers’ doctor ended the surgery only 30 minutes into the procedure and informed Tracy and her family that the once-benign tumors had metastasized and had become cancerous, Akers said.
“That’s when everything really started. I got my port put in during another surgery, I was instantly put on crutches… and I call it the life or death chemo — what I was getting was some really nasty stuff,” Akers said.
After a few months of chemotherapy, the oncologist informed Akers that the chemo was killing her and not the cancer cells. Within three days he would have to amputate her left leg.
Akers was in shock, but maintained her creative and bright essence.She and her family held a short funeral for her leg, in which she ‘foot painted’ to preserve and remember her left foot and leg that she would lose on March 10, 2016.
On September 11, 2016, after months of more post-op chemo, Akers officially went into remission.
While she has beaten her cancer, it’s difficult to say life has gotten easier.
Akers, her single-mom and her three sisters, are facing a new financial battle whose only cure is community.Now the University of Richmond’s Richmond College Government Association (RCSGA) and the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) have teamed up to host a No Shave November to help Tracy.
Kenneth Anderson, the president of the RCSGA, and Andrew Winter, the president of the IFC, decided that not shaving was not a bad way to fundraise for a fellow Spider.
“The end goal this month is to help Tracy by raising as much money as possible for her, evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness, and lastly grow some really cool facial hair,” said Andrew Winter, IFC President and University of Richmond senior.
Anderson and Winter came together, along with many other organizations on campus including the STC comedy improvisation group to raise awareness for bone cancer and to support Akers in her journey to normalcy.
Community members can support Tracy and her family through her GoFundMe started by her aunt in December 2015.
The money raised through this GoFundMe will go towards gas bills piled up through hospital visits, medical bills ,and most importantly a new prosthetic leg, which must be updated every two years.
Story contributed by University of Richmond senior Holly Speck.