4-sport Cisco athlete overcomes the odds


CISCO, Texas - When you watch Cisco junior Kentleigh Nichols play basketball, you can feel her dedication and heart.

At 5'2", she crashes and squeezes her way into and through opposing players that are bigger than her.

"She's a little undersized,but has a lot of quickness, and is one of the hardest workers we have," girls basketball coach Brent Kilpatrick said.

If you know her story, it's no surprise how much fight she shows.

"I was born with neuroblastoma," said Nichols, through tears.

Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that forms in certain types of nerve tissue and most often affects infants and young children,

The cancer was too pervasive in Kentleigh's body for surgery to be an option. At six weeks old, Kentleigh started chemotherapy.

"I don't remember a whole lot," she said. "When it relapsed at two, they said there's no cure for that, so I guess we're just going to keep fighting."

The Nichols family moved to the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital in Houston where Kentleigh was being treated.

Through five years of treatment, Kentleigh and her family fought until at age seven the cancer was gone. Kentleigh was a cancer survivor.

"She's been through things, but it would never hold her back," Kilpatrick said. "And the thought of it holding her back would infuriate her."

Kentleigh still goes back for a checkup at the cancer center once a year and does therapy work periodically.

"Seeing all the kids is kind of heartbreaking, but just knowing that I've been through that and God's blessed me enough to play sports and do the things I love, when the doctors said I wasn't going to be able to."

Chemo took away some of her hearing, and she has to wear hearing aides, but she fights through that, too.

"She does great. It doesn't happen very often where I can't talk to her, or communicate with her," Kilpatrick said. "It doesn't hold her back, or any of us."

While basketball may be her favorite sport, Kentleigh also runs track and plays softball. But, she is best at cheerleading, something Kentleigh's mom, Heather, started her in when she was two to create normalcy from the cancer treatments.

Cisco cheer coach Amy Dodson said Kentleigh has the talent to cheer in college.

"Have you seen her?" asked Dodson with a laugh. "Kentleigh has every element she needs. She has good, clean motion. She has a good, projecting voice. She's coachable. Her tumbling is impeccable. She has every element from standing to running.

"Kentleigh doesn't know the meaning of the word 'quit.' She has everything she needs to cheer at the next level when that time comes. I have no doubt whatsoever."

"[She's] a coach's dream, really. She just wants to earn everything she gets," said Kilpatrick.

"There's always hope, and there's always a bright future for everyone," said Kentleigh.

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