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Through positivity, Flagler College softball player Anna Dumovich finds comfort in fight with cancer

Mar 25, 2020
by Lauren Moore

Life has its ways.It is unpredictable. It is uncontrollable. It is simply unfair in ways the average human being will never be able to explain. These were all things well-known even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) confirmed all of them as the respiratory disease trickled into the United States, causing a worldwide pandemic and canceling sports across all levels of play. On March 13, the day before the Flagler College softball team was supposed to honor its teammate, who is currently battling stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma, with an honorary first pitch, the unimaginable happened.

The Peach Belt Conference announced the cancellation of spring sports and their championship seasons to erase the special day, where the Saints planned to wear purple T-shirt jerseys to represent something much bigger than softball.

With that being said, here is Anna Dumovich's story:
 
The Phone Call
 
It was like any other three-hour drive back to campus. Anna was rolling right along with the January traffic and jamming to some new tracks with her Flagler College spring semester and sophomore season on the diamond in mind.
 
The song "Heartless" by The Weeknd was humming through her speakers when her iPhone rang. It was a call bound to happen, but filled with news one never wishes to receive.
 
"She said, 'Mom, the doctor just called, and he told me that I do have cancer,'" recalled Anna's mother, Michelle Dumovich. "I wasn't prepared for my daughter to call me when she is headed to college and tell me that she has cancer."
 
It was a life-changing diagnosis, but even in the heat of the moment, Anna already had her mind made up: she wasn't going to let cancer define her next steps.
 
She didn't turn the car around; instead, Anna kept driving to campus with the same mindset she had when she left Trinity, Florida.
 
"She said, 'You need to start making arrangements, but I am going to school. I will handle this, and I will make it happen," said Michelle of Anna's initial reaction.
 
And that's all the 19-year-old student and softball player has done. 

Blessing in Disguise
 
Accidents happen and injuries aren't uncommon when it comes to playing sports.
 
That's all Anna, her parents, and Flagler College personnel made of it when she hurt her right arm during a November workout session.
 
"At that moment, we didn't know we were going to discover that Anna has cancer," Michelle said. "We thought it was a regular injury and she tore some muscles because she had no symptoms, like loss of appetite, that pointed towards cancer."
 
It all stemmed from what was considered a minor arm injury to the development of swollen lymph nodes above Anna's collarbone. When she noticed the growth, Anna told her mother which led to a doctor's appointment, alongside her head coach Kathryn Geouge, to get an MRI and X-ray with the Flagler College orthopedic after the initial injury was reported.
 
The first diagnosis came back as a massive tumor around her carotid artery that stunned everyone and put Michelle, her husband, Mark, and son, Dominick, on the next red-eye flight searching for answers.
 
Thankfully, CAT scans, performed by the oncology department at Flagler College, revealed it was not a massive tumor, which put the Dumovich family back at square one and placed more uncertainty upon Anna, her loved ones, teammates, and coaches.
 
"Coach Geouge was there for the first CAT scans as well as the other reports," Michelle said. "The team has been wonderful in supporting Anna. She has been overjoyed and blessed with amazing teammates, the coach, Kathryn Geouge, and assistant coach, Kaylee Allen, has been right by her side day one before Anna even was diagnosed.
 
"We didn't know it was going to be cancer, and I kept telling the coach, 'I think it's an injury or bacteria. OK, let's keep hopeful.'"
 
The results pointed to large lymph nodes; however, they kept coming back negative on a handful of tests, like infectious and a needle biopsy, so Anna took the next step with setting up an appointment with the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute In New Port Richey, Florida, just up the road from her roots.
 
"If in fact it was cancer, we wanted Anna to be close to home," Michelle said.
 
Preparing for the worst and staying strong through a surgical biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, and a PET scan, Anna was in line to get a definite answer once and for all.
 
Once two or three days passed, the inevitable happened as the call came that January day, saying she had stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but it never once shook her.
 
"Anna is handling this diagnosis like Anna handles everything else is life: with a positive attitude and outlook," Geougesaid. "Anna has found a way to positively impact all those around her as she goes through this difficult time and is teaching our team so many valuable lessons along the way.  She is continually giving support and inspiration to our team and all those she comes in contact with and never asks for anything in return. 

"If you were looking for a role model for your team or just for how to live your life in general, Anna is a great example!  I am both amazed and proud of the strength she shows on a daily basis and could not be happier that she is a part of our Flagler Family.” 

No excuses
 
Pausing her dreams and aspirations was never an option for Anna.
 
Her mother, as any mom would do, told her to turn around, when she received the call three months ago, after the doctor recommended her to take the semester off.
 
"Anna was like, 'I'm not doing that. There is no way I'm going to miss my classes," recalled Michelle of Anna's comments. "I will watch some games, and I'm going to get through this.'"
 
Michelle took her daughter's word, knowing how strong of a woman she had raised that nothing, not even cancer, could hold her back.
 
So, she reached out to all of Anna's professors, including Flagler College's Associate Professor of Political Science and Dean of Academic Life Arthur Houten, about the current situation and her want to continue to study her finance and accounting major.
 
"Before Anna started her treatment, I spoke with the Dean of Academic Life personally and he said to me, 'I'm well aware of Anna. I'm well aware of the situation and Flagler College will stand behind her and do whatever she needs to get her through this.'"
 
Those words lent Michelle a sense of comfort as did the outpouring support from Anna's coaches, teammates—led by Jamie Greenwood, Zoe Mooney, and Tabitha Formon — who made purple flowers to wear on game days in her honor — and opposing teams like Florida Institute of Technology and Saint Leo University that reached out to know if they could wear purple to honor her fight.

"Everybody has been so supportive," Anna said. "I honestly don't know what I would do without my team."
 
"It's crazy how the softball world is so much bigger than a game," Anna's teammate, friend, and senior Brittney Rayfield added.
 
So, Anna pressed forward with her plan as everyone lined up right beside her side. She's kept on keeping on with her life, going to every softball game she could while balancing a loaded school schedule and driving back home bi-weekly to go through chemotherapy.  
 
By the way, she's almost halfway finished with her 12 treatments, and has never used an excuse or doubt to why she won't knockout cancer.
 
"I know her attitude has been speculator, her caretakers are amazing, her oncology team is wonderful and very positive," Michelle said. "She has so much support in all different capacities that there is no other outcome than she will win this. That's how I get through it. I get through it because just from all the positivity and Anna.
 
"Every time I talk to her, she makes me feel good. She makes me feel, 'Wow, she is good. She's eating great. She's going to school. In that moment in time, me and her father thank God and she's doing it; she will beat this.’"

 

Selfless
 
If there's one word to sum up Anna, it is selfless. From the beginning, the 19-year-old wasn't concerned about what this disease would do to her, but to those in her life who care about her.
 
"It's not about you; it's about other people," she said. "I know my mom and dad are not handling it well, but I know being positive just helps it and they've said that. Why would I want to make it worse for other people?"
 
Anna didn't want to tell people of her diagnosis when she found out because she didn't want to be, as she described it, dramatic. She told her mom and her coach, but she didn't go any further than that.
 
She allowed them to tell the rest. Anna didn't want to make this journey through her newest roadblock centered around her needs, but how she could rise above and strengthen those around her.
 
"Anna is the type of person to not want to be dramatic," Rayfieldsaid. "If something hurts, it doesn't hurt to Anna. If something small happens, it is nothing to Anna. I think she's taken this whole situation as something like that, and that is just her personality. This is just another steppingstone."
 
That's why the positivity has radiated from her and influenced the lives touching hers each day she wakes up and continues to fight.
 
It's why Anna won't take no as an answer or back down from what is next. It's why the 19-year-old Flagler College student looks herself in the mirror and knows it could be worse.
 
"Even before this, it's so easy to be negative," Anna said, "but you have to look at things different — it makes you happier. You have to think about it: I go into these treatments and there are people next to me, crying and saying, 'I don't know if I'm going to live after this treatment.' I literally can't complain, at all."
 
The outlook has Anna's faith and overall well-being at an all-time high, despite her current condition, because she has found out who she is through it all. Sometimes it takes life and its challenges to make what you were too blind to see apparent.
 
Anna and her family hope her story helps illumine those not in high spirits, showing we as people can only control what we can control when life throws its curves and the rest is up to how you tackle it.
 
"It gives hope to a lot of people that even if you are dealt with cancer or hardships, your attitude is everything," said Michelle of Anna's story. "That's what Anna has — a brilliant, strong, resilient, healthy attitude through all of this. She will help other people through this — my family plans on helping other people through this.
 
"You have no other choice — move forward and just know you will win. My daughter will win this. I have 100% confidence that Anna will beat this and be back on the field.”

To view the original article, please visit the Flagler College Athletics site here.

Editor's note: At the time of this story's posting, Flagler College Head Softball Coach Kathryn Geouge shared the following information: "Anna's mother says that Anna has been told she is 99% cancer-free at this time. She still has 7 treatments to go, but the future looks very bright!"

Anna Dumovich is held up by her softball teammates in the middle of a huddle type formation.

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