Southsider Voice correspondent
Lutheran High School sophomore Hannah Christian possesses the characteristics that any athlete should have. She’s a cheerleader for the football and basketball teams and is devoted to her squad and her school.
However, something sets Christian apart from the rest, a story that she never let define her but used to motivate her.
When she was 6 her elementary teachers noticed that she limped, but they didn’t think anything of it until it progressively got worse. That’s when her parents took her to a doctor.
Christian was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in her leg, which was rare at her age. The tumor was removed, but her leg had to be amputated from the knee down. Months of chemotherapy followed, and she’s been cancer-free for almost nine years.
Most people would have let an event like that keep them from trying out for cheerleading, but not Christian. Participating in a sport where kicks, jumps and lifts are skills required, she had her work cut out for her.
“I overcame cancer by not limiting myself,” she said. “Many people ask me, ‘Are you sure? Are you really comfortable with this?’ or, ‘You don’t have to do this if you really don’t want to.’ ”
“I make sure to try everything, trying not to limit my abilities. I do cheerleading because it requires strength and communication with others, like I had to do to defeat cancer. I use my emotional strength to help the team and to overcome all my problems.
“This is my therapy. It helped in other areas, such as helping me to overcome my fear of talking to people about my feelings and what exactly happened to me. I am more comfortable now than I ever was back then; I get stronger and stronger everyday.”
Despite having an artificial leg, Christian still attempts all the kicks and jumps that any other cheerleader would do.
Not everyone knows about her story, mostly because Christian doesn’t want all the attention; however, she is looked upon highly by teachers, staff, and even fellow teammates.
“Hannah is very hardworking,” cheer captain Randi Zulkowski said. “Always comes to practice with a positive attitude, works on everything with the group and always is there for everyone. Nothing stops her unless she physically can’t do it, but then she will find an alternative way to get the job done. She is a fighter.”
She was presented the team’s Christian Leadership Award last year for giving it her all and exemplifying leadership through actions rather than words.
“She never lets her physical limitations hold her back from giving her all for the team,” varsity cheer coach Jamie Morton said, “and she continuously pushes not only herself but others at every practice.”
Christian can be found on the sidelines of Lutheran football games or on the court performing routines at basketball games. Most importantly, she can be found supporting the Saints to the best of her ability.