‘I just kept telling myself to be strong’: Teen beats cancer, returns to softball with all-state performance

Teagan Nees beat cancer and returned to softball as an all-state performer. (Source: KWQC)
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 9:53 PM CDT
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SHERRARD, Ill. (KWQC/Gray News) - A softball team in Illinois honored one of their senior players after she returned to play following a battle with cancer.

On senior night, the Sherrard High School Tigers honored Teagan Nees as one of the toughest players in school history.

“Just the type of player she is, the type of person she is, I couldn’t ask for any better player,” said head coach Mike Barnett.

The special moment is one Teagan and her family says they aren’t taking for granted.

In March of 2021, Teagan was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I’m really proud of her, and we have watched her play ball since she was 9 years old and everything that she’s been through in the process,” said Teagan’s father, Kris.

Teagan spent the next three months receiving chemotherapy.

“I hadn’t been feeling good for a really long time, and then once I finally got the answer, it was really overwhelming,” Teagan said. “Being in the hospital for such a long time without being able to be next to my parents because COVID obviously shut down the hospital, so I was only able to see my mom. I missed my siblings a lot during that time. Obviously being out of sporting events ... It was hard.”

Throughout her battle, Teagan was yearning to get back to the people she loves.

“It was a mental battle. I just kept telling myself to be strong. My family was being strong for me, so I had to be strong for them,” she said.

“Teagan has always been very determined. She’s always been super strong willed, so when she was going through her battle, I think that was one of the things that really pushed her to get through it was just that strength and determination,” said Teagan’s mom, Ginny.

After 12 rounds of chemotherapy, Teagan’s cancer was in remission. She was determined to get back to softball.

“The first thing I said when I was done with chemo was that I was going to live every day to the fullest. I told my mom actually one day sitting in the hospital that I felt like I was alive, but I wasn’t living, and I wanted to come back and feel like I was living,” Teagan said. “I knew that I needed to come back to the player I was before cancer hit me.”

The following spring, she returned to Sherrard’s lineup for her junior season.

“To come back last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect from her. I was just hoping that everything was good with her and to be able to get her on the field where she’s comfortable and everything, but she absolutely blew up. She just blew me away with how she came out and how she played. It’s like she didn’t miss a beat,” Barnett said.

Teagan earned third-team all-state honors.

“I left it all on the field,” Teagan said. “I worked my butt off. Nile Pena, he’s a local guy. He trained me really really hard.”

While she’s thriving in softball, Teagan says she has other plans for college.

“In the fall, I’m attending Ole Miss, and I’m going to start my 12-year journey to become a pediatric oncologist,” she said.

Teagan said she wants to research the treatment of cancer in children and young adults.

“After, you know, going through that hard time, it just changed my mindset a little bit. I said that I want to give back to that community in some way, and becoming a pediatric oncologist is probably the best way that I can give back,” Teagan said. “Every opportunity, every chance that I get to go out and do something with my family or do something with my friends, I don’t take anything for granted anymore.”