Para-cyclist finds strength through cycling after cancer diagnosis

USA Cycling

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A broken wrist that wouldn’t heal and a cancer diagnosis weren’t part of the plan for a 20-year cycling veteran, but they became a reality.

Theresa Ball was a track athlete-turned-cyclist after an injury made it impossible for her to continue running track. She started cycling in 1985 to stay in shape and quickly learned she loved the sport.

“I dropped my whole first year, until I learned tactics,” said Ball.

Describing her first cycling races, she smiles and laughs, knowing she’s learned more about the sport and ways to win.

“I used to train with a bike trailer that seats four kids, 250 weight limit. It contributes to getting stronger, the kids used to tell me to go faster,” said Ball.

Ball, a mother of four, was diagnosed in 2013 with myeloproliferative neoplasm, a bone marrow cancer. She dislocated her wrist and it wouldn’t heal for three months. Doctors tested her blood and confirmed she had cancer. She began treatments immediately.

“I had difficulty with chemo, but my family and friends saw me through some really rough times,” said Ball.

At the time, she didn’t think she would be able to race again – that is, until she heard the story of another para-cyclist with a similar cancer diagnosis. It inspired her to consider para-cycling.

“I knew I needed to get stronger for them [family and friends], when I learned there was a Para-cyclist with a similar disability. I set my goal to get stronger and to come to Knoxville, Tennessee for possible classification to be a Para-cyclist,” said Ball.

Ball submitted medical documents starting back in November 2018 for the 2019 USA Cycling National Championships. Originally from Boise, Idaho, Ball drove to Knoxville without knowing for certain if she would classify, based on her disability, to race in the Para Time Trials or Para Road Race.

But she did.

“I want to make my family proud and let them know I’m getting stronger, so they can pick up and go on with their own lives and continue,”  said Ball.

She qualified as a C5 cyclist, which is defined by USA Cycling to include athletes that can, “independently balance on a regular bicycle and power it with their legs.” These athletes qualify to race with a standard bicycle.

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