A year ago, Rashawn King didn't know if he would survive to see another football season, let alone play in it. Now, the rising senior is preparing for a final gridiron campaign with the Middle Creek (N.C.) High football team, with a frightening bout of leukemia in his rear view mirror and little to dim his positive outlook on a return to the field he loves most.
"Just getting my life back on track, doing things a normal teenager would do," King told the News & Observer. "I love sports. I've been playing them since I was little. It's a main factor in my life," King said. "(I) like being able to meet new people and do something that you love to do and perfecting it."
While King may be returning to the field with a cancer-free diagnosis, the disease that threatened his life after its initial diagnosis in June 2010 is still a factor in his young life. The News & Observer reported that King takes a cocktail of 24 pills each day, all designed to help fight off a leukemia recurrence and keep his body healthy. He also will still have to attend chemotherapy sessions once every month, a procedure which will force him to sit on the sidelines for 48 hours after each treatment.
Sitting on the bench is a hard thing for an aggressive running back to do, yet it's a far more optimistic prospect than King was facing 12 months ago. The 2009 Middle Creek star is openly thankful for that, even if he will be putting himself at risk every time he takes a hit coming out of the backfield in the coming season.
King had his portacath removed as soon as his cancer went into remission, a procedure that paved the way for his return to sports but also leaves his chest a bit more vulnerable in the spot where it had been installed.
Now he'll wear extra padding to protect his more sensitive areas, but insisted that any hits he takes on the field will be easy when compared to what he's already lived through.
"It can't be worse than what I've gone through," King told his mother, Kathleen Merritt, according to the News & Observer.
For her part, Merritt is just proud that her son has fought the disease with such resilience, insisting that she'll be proud of him even if he never reaches the field in his return to football.
"He is the most courageous young man that I could have been blessed with," Merritt said. "I'm an about-to-be 45-year-old woman, and everything that he's been through - I don't know if I could have endured it (or) mentally wrapped my brain around it to handle it. I've learned that Ray has a lot of faith. I've learned that he does not give up."
She continued: "Ray is a determined young man. He's determined he's going to play a sport. He is determined that he is going to come out of Middle Creek as an honor roll student. He's determined to try to get into N.C. State University and go to school for business."