Cameron Shoaf, Student-Athlete of the Week

DURHAM Shoaf has put in the practice hours at the North Carolian School of Science and Math to make herself known as one of the top softball players in the state. She has a batting average that nearly touches .600.

"I really thought this senior year was going to be my year to blossom," Shoaf said. "I've had seven home runs this year. It's nice to have that attention where people recognize you for your hard work."

While her opponents see her as an offensive monster, the people closest to her know her as a survivor.

"One day I was playing, and my legs collapsed," Shoaf said.

At age 9, Shoaf was playing soccer when she fell. Her coach happened to be a neurologist, and suggested an MRI. She went to the Duke Children's Hospital, where doctors revealed to her family that she had a brain tumor.

She would need surgery to save her life.

"I did it November 16, 2001, which was 10 days before my birthday," Shoaf said.

The birthday girl got to go home from the hospital with an eye patch. Doctors covered her lazy eye, one of the complications of surgery, and Shoaf went back to school.

"It was not easy," Shoaf said. "They made fun of me. I missed 52 days of school that year."

While she recovered, she set her sights on getting her life back. Now, at age 18, Shoaf visits the same hospital, on the same floor where she was a patient, to volunteer.

"I was in their shoes at one point," she said. "I'm sure some of them are really anxious, scared."

Shoaf volunteers mostly in the summer, when she's done with school softball. She explained this year, she felt a difference in her game: more focus, more power. But it's the games with kids just like her that keeps her perspective alive.

"It's really rewarding to make a difference in someone's life, even if it's the smallest thing as giving a stuffed animal" she said. "It makes me want to come back more to help them."

Shoaf will graduate from high school soon, and her athletic career will continue along with her volunteering. She is going to UNC, where she will be the manager of Tar Heel softball.

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