"You have to put in the work to see results," said Fletcher. "You learn things each day, some which you never even would think probably, and how it could relate to real life."
Just as her final season on the Lady Senator's basketball team was beginning, Fletcher felt a pain in her knee that just wouldn't go away. In December, the pain started and two weeks into her final semester at D&E Fletcher had to withdraw from classes. By February, the pain was too much to handle and Fletcher went to a doctor.
"I think, being an athlete, you just tend to work through pain, so that's kind of what I thought. 'It's nothing.' Obviously I didn't think, 'Oh, I have cancer,'" said Fletcher. "I told Coach Asbell about it. ‘I'm having a little bit of pain.' He said, ‘Well let's try and rest it,' that type of thing. It seemed like that worked but then it just, when I started practicing again, it just started to flare back up. The trainers went with me. They actually went with me when I found out what my diagnosis was. So, support wise, they've been great to me."
The diagnosis after an X-RAY, MRI, and two biopsies was Fibrosarcoma, a cancerous tumor on Fletcher's femur near her knee. She had to have a total knee replacement and doctors removed part of her femur. Fletcher is doing chemotherapy treatments as a precaution, four down, three to go.
"It's not hard now because I'm used to, ok, this is how it is now," said Fletcher. "But then, obviously you don't think, I'm 21, 22, I'm going to have cancer. I don't think anybody thinks that when they're that young, let alone when they're older even, but it's a lot of mixed emotions. At first you go through sadness, that type of thing and then telling people you love the same thing, but you just kind of work your way through it and find the positives that you can."
After the knee surgery, Fletcher walks with crutches but she's working on not suing them at all. It's still a ways off, but Fletcher is already thinking about what's next, athletically.
"I don't think anybody wants to give up sports once they've been involved in it, but I'm planning to at least play something," said Fletcher. "Golf, may be an option there. Basketball, I don't think any full-fledged, hard core basketball but I'm hoping that I can."
It takes a lot of courage to fight the battle Fletcher is waging right now. It also takes support and a little bit of stubbornness.
"I think the main things have been my family and all my friends and the people, some people I don't even know, that just have supported me through it and then my faith is I think what's getting me through it," said Fletcher. "I don't think anything is going to get in the way of what I want to do, or achieve in life. One of my friends actually told me, ‘For every set back there is, there's always a bigger come back,' so that's what I'm planning to do."
Fletcher still needs to complete one more semester at D&E. She knows it will happen because life after college and college basketball was planned out before Fletcher's health issues. She was accepted to the West Virginia University Physical Therapy Program. D&E was supportive of Fletcher when she needed to hold off on her undergraduate degree, and WVU has been the same way, allowing Fletcher to defer for a year.
Fletcher's continuing optimism about her situation will stay with her for the years to come and hopefully even help out a little.
"Not a blessing I guess, but it's funny how I want to go into physical therapy and you see a lot of knee replacements, it's like, 'Oh I have one,'" said Fletcher. "So I think that could help to relate to patients that are going through hard times or even have cancer or something like that. If I could help them, that would be great."
If you would like to help, there is a "Leah Fletcher Cancer Fund" account at Harrison County Bank. Donations may also be sent to New Beginnings Church in Lost Creek.