Written by Ken Hymes
"My life unfolds in the most beautiful ways every day, and I'm constantly trying to better myself. However, it's a slow, grueling walk to a better life. I'm getting there; I get closer every day. I'm thankful for this unique journey."
When Tracy Akers was a high school basketball player at Colonial Heights High near Petersburg VA, she excelled on the court. She also was an amazing example of perseverance through adversity, coming back to the team from a rare illness that required the replacement of her left tibia. After graduation, Tracy earned a coveted spot on the basketball team at the University of Richmond, where she overcame a serious knee injury which also required surgery. But Tracy’s greatest challenge was still ahead of her.
In December 2015, in her senior year at the University of Richmond, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, and began intensive chemotherapy. By March 2016, it became clear that beating the cancer would require the amputation of her left leg. Tracy had to learn to walk again using a prosthesis, while still undergoing treatment for the cancer. “It was one of the greatest battles I’ll ever face,” said Akers.
The team at the Gait Center saw her determination, and together Tracy and her therapists rose to the occasion. “Physical therapy at the Gait Center raised my morale, while raising my talents, coordination, and ability to literally move forward.”
Tracy never met Jacob Rainey, but she was inspired by his story and his accomplishments. She did, however, meet Cor'Rales, who came to encourage her during her therapy sessions when she started at the Gait Center. He showed her his prosthesis and was able to talk with her about life as an amputee.
The next year, Tracy re-enrolled at UR to finish her degree, graduating in May 2017.
“I’ve learned that it’s okay to be different. Life looks a lot different after battling cancer. Amputations complicate those feelings even more. I’m forever grateful for the time, professional experience, energy, and patience given to me throughout my battle. I’ve not only regained my ability to walk again, but I gained lifelong friendships.”
Tracy maintains an active, outdoorsy lifestyle, and always finds ways of using her creative flair to make a statement about her journey. She’s made some great modern dance videos for YouTube, which feature her prosthesis. She’s made her leg part of her art, rather than an obstacle.
Tracy Akers is an amazing example of character, courage, hard work, and great physical therapy coming together to conquer the toughest situations. Our whole team wishes her continued success everywhere she walks.