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Socking it to cancer: Lady Trojans’ Yates brings awareness to childhood disease

DRUMMOND – When people use the word cancer, it’s typically linked with people who are older or have some unhealthy habit.

Rarely is it linked to a child of four years old.

But such was the case with Annabelle Yates of the Drummond Volleyball Team. It doesn’t define her, but the freshman defensive specialist doesn’t back away from it either.

If you look closely on game days, the Lady Trojans all wear white ankle socks with yellow ribbons on them to help raise awareness for childhood cancer. Their timing was perfect as September is the month set aside to nationally recognize just that.

“We’re just trying to make people aware that it’s there,” said Annabelle of the effort. “People could be more aware that you can get cancer as a child.”

The idea for the socks sprang from her grandmother, Sandra Kroll, and family friend Jamie Parke. After thinking they ought to do something to help raise awareness about the disease, they settled on socks.

“I work with her grandma and she thought it would be fun to do something like that, but not sure if Annabelle would be OK with it,” Parke recalled. “I talked to Annabelle and she said yes so I found some socks online and showed them to her. She even picked them out.”

“The socks are kind of cool,” Annabelle said with a smile.

Parke cleared it with the Drummond coaching staff and placed an order for the entire team.

“Any time someone wants to do something in support of the team or a player I’m all for it,” said DHS Head Coach Paige Fickler. “It’s nice to see people supporting volleyball and something like this.”

The team was very receptive to the idea, now wearing them for every game.

“I thought it was great,” said the team’s co-captain Jesse Struna. “It’s her first year playing with us and we knew it would be a challenge for her, but we were really proud of her for coming out and being part of the team. It’s really all about supporting her and being so happy she can do this with us today.”

Annabelle is what’s considered in the cancer world as having “no sign of disease” for the past 10 years. She still has some pain in her neck from the 13 months of treatments, but she plays through it.

At age four her parents, Josh and Sally Yates, noticed that Annabelle was having pain in her neck. They took her to the doctor for examination and x-rays but the results came back negative. They scheduled an MRI, but small children need to be sedated for the procedure due to the technicians requiring them to be still to capture accurate images. The Yates scheduled the procedure for several months out and waited.

That proved to be too long.

“The pain just got too bad for her,” said her mother Sally. “We called and they got her in. That’s when they found a lump in her neck. We didn’t know what it was for several weeks.”

When the diagnosis came back it was for a cancer called Ewing Sarcoma. According to the Mayo Clinic website, Ewing sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones, but most often begins in the leg bones and in the pelvis. It’s even rarer that it occurs in the soft tissues of the chest, abdomen, and limbs – so Annabelle’s diagnosis was very unique as it appeared in her neck.

Annabelle received treatment at the Primary Children’s Hospital and Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, but needed more than a year to get the various chemo and radiation sessions to vanquish the cancer. During that time the Yates family was split, with Sally and their two children living in her in-laws’ basement while Josh stayed back in Drummond to work.

“She’s been amazing this whole time,” said Sally, reflecting on Annabelle’s ability to handle her recovery and return to life. “She’s really had to fight for her life, but she doesn’t let that define her. She doesn’t necessarily like being defined as the ‘kid with cancer’. But now that she’s older I think she recognizes the opportunity she has to bring awareness to childhood cancer and she’s happy to do that.”

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