On the Road: Hometown Heroes - Grinnell's Paige Ramey

Published: Jul. 7, 2016 at 4:24 PM CDT
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A small town sports star graduates high school and prepares to take off to college, but her dreams to get out on her town take a backseat when the 18-year-old is diagnosed with cancer.

In the town the size of Grinnell, almost everyone quickly heard the news that Paige Ramey had a tumor in her knee. But those same people will tell you, they knew Paige wasn't going down without a fight.

As an athlete, Paige Ramey said sometimes you just have to play through the pain.

"I thought it was a torn meniscus," Paige remembered. "It would hurt on and off, not bad enough for me to sit out so I kept playing through the season until it was over."

But when the pain in her knee didn't go away after she graduated her senior year, it was time to see a doctor.

"She wasn't going to quit until basketball was over and when basketball was over, we went to the doctor and they did an MRI and that's when they found the tumor," Paige's mom, Bridgette Ramey said.

"As an athlete you never think that you could have a tumor or have cancer," Paige said. "When they told us I was pretty much in shock, it didn't really sink it. It never sunk in really."

Paige, the goody, good-hearted, all-around sports star, had cancer.

"We didn't know of course, we were scared to death," Bridgette said.

"I know firsthand how bad cancer is, it runs in my family," said Paige's coach, Cheryl Martin. "I love both my parents to cancer so you hear something like that it just hits you deep."

Without wasting any time, Paige began going to Kansas City every two weeks for chemo and college would have to wait. Though her appearance changed dramatically, those who know her said her spirit never did.

"Every time you'd see her come into the gym or something and see not even a resemblance of Paige," said Coach Martin. "But you saw her smile. That was about all that resembled the old Paige."

"She was always a fighter, she wasn't going to give up on the court or classroom or hospital bed and wherever she wasn't going to give up," her mom said.

And she didn't. Paige fought through 14 chemo treatments, a stem call transplant and a surgery that left her with a knee full of metal. Still, Paige refers to chemo as "not that bad".

"Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, like, my body bounced back pretty quick the first three or four," Paige recalled.

A physical and mental strength Paige said she already had, thanks to sports.

"The practices you know, the conditioning, saying this sucks," Paige laughed. "But getting through it, it definitely helped me in chemo saying I could do it. I didn't like the losing the hair part, but oh well."

Paige is now cancer free and a story of inspiration for many, although she herself would tell you otherwise.

"I don't see it I guess," she said. "Everybody tells me I'm an inspiration but I just did what I had to do. It was either that or the alternative, so I just did what I had to do."

Now she's moving forward and finally getting to go back to college this fall, with an entirely new outlook on life.

"I just know that I can do anything that I put my mind to," Paige. "If I beat cancer, I can beat anything else."

But Paige Ramey's story doesn't stop there, which is why she was nominated to be Grinnell's Hometown Hero. During and after her treatment, Paige found a way to get back involved with her sports teams and discovered a new passion along the way.

Because she was diagnosed with cancer just after high school, Paige's plans for college had to change.

"She was going to go to Fort Hays for speech pathology and of course had to lay out for a year," Paige's mom, Bridgette said.

"I was looking forward to college and getting out of my own and making new friends," Paige added.

But instead, Paige spent months getting chemo treatments. Although she had to spend months recovering, the treatments were successful and Paige is cancer free.

"Oh it's awesome, I can't even put it into words," Paige said. "I'm so happy to be back around friends, around people, around the community and just helping everybody out."

Since she had to take a year off from school, helping is exactly is exactly what she's been doing while she recovered at home, because it wasn't long before she had the itch to get back on the court.

"I figured as good of an athlete and good of a person she was, she would be an inspiration to the kids and it worked great," explained Coach Martin.

As head basketball coach for Wheatland High School, Martin was able to give Paige the opportunity to help her coach the team. A win-win, she said, for everyone involved.

"The first week after I started helping the girls in the winter, I told mom 'these girls have my heart'," Paige said. "I couldn't not come anymore. I just wanted to help."

"I think it's a two-way street, I think it gave her something to do, keep her busy and look forward to and the kids enjoyed having her here definitely," Martin said.

Not only does she offer sports advice, Coach Martin and players said they can always count on her for a good joke.

"Paige is really goofy," one of her teammates said.

"Pretty ornery," laughed Martin. "She's just a good-hearted kid, likes to laugh."

Although she'll be leaving the team this fall to go back to college, Paige said she learned something new about herself she might not have otherwise.

"I'm moving to Hays in August and I changed my major to Elementary Ed so I can help more kids and hopefully get a coaching job wherever I land," Paige said.

"I'm happy and excited for her and then in another way I'm upset," Coach Martin laughed. "I'm upset I've got her training, she does a good job. I love having her around, I'm going to miss her."

Paige will attend Fort Hays State this fall. She continues to go back to the doctor every three months for check-ups and scans to make sure she's still healthy.