Doctors recently cleared Lauren Anderson to compete for the Batavia girls golf team for her junior season.
Anderson won't soon change course and go out for volleyball, but she admittedly owes quite a bit to that sport, too.
An accident during gym class last November sent Anderson to Delnor Community Hospital, where wooziness from taking a volleyball to the face helped prompt the diagnosis of a brain tumor.
Separate surgeries left her fighting and scared, but also reduced the tumor – and Anderson's hesitance – to a fraction of its original size.
"So far, knock on wood, nothing has occurred," Anderson said. "I'm not out of the woods yet, it's still going to be a long process, but right now it's looking good, so I'm very excited."
Batavia completed tryouts at Wolf Run Golf Course in Aurora this week. Anderson, a third-year varsity player who occupied the Bulldogs' No. 1 spot last season, wasted little time resuming that role, her one-tournament IJGA summer resume notwithstanding.
"It's been an honor learning from her," sophomore Rebecca Hasemann said. "She's already been a great help this year."
Teammates look at Anderson and can't help thinking of what she's been through since the tumor was diagnosed on Nov. 28, 2012.
There was the first surgery, in early December, and the initial hospitalization that kept Anderson from coming home until just before Christmas.
There was the second surgery, in mid-March, which was scheduled to curb the effects of medication that reduced the tumor too quickly.
"It was an experience that I would never want to wish on anybody, but for me, I learned a lot about myself going through something like that," Anderson said. "And it's made me stronger as a person, and honestly I've taken it and I've used it almost as a tool to motivate me more and make me work. Make me stronger."
Even as Anderson enjoyed a steady sophomore season – qualifying for the Class AA Burlington Central Sectional and shaving about 10 strokes from her 2011 average – Bulldogs coach Morgan Connell occasionally sensed something was off.
What Connell assumed to be nerves or attacks of dizziness proved to be much more serious after the season ended.
Anderson, a violinist with Batavia's school orchestra, had just returned from an annual music program trip to Florida before she was diagnosed. She soon became acquainted with trips to Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago and days of missed classes.
The events have spurred Anderson to take better stock of her day-to-day health. She estimates the tumor, which first settled predominantly behind her left eye, is one-fifth its original size.
"She was concerned even just three months ago whether she'd even be able to play or be in a tournament or even finish a tournament," Connell said. "And she did do those things. She's come out really really strong."
Before high school, Anderson knew golf only as a relaxing father-daughter pastime with her dad, Daniel. Anderson recalls how the sport "just took over me" when she first frequented St. Andrews in West Chicago at age 7 or 8.
Her passion only accelerated when Anderson joined the Bulldogs. Now that she's back – in her health and her spirits – Anderson happily finds herself consumed again.
"When you go from being a player who's never been in a competitive environment, you learn a lot about yourself and your game and you learn about techniques from girls who have been in your position more than once," Anderson said. "You build confidence and perspective. It's a different environment, and it gets to be something you enjoy. I love the competition. I love it."