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Diamond DeShields holds the WNBA Finals trophy during game four.

 

 

WNBA star Diamond DeShields’ story is nothing short of amazing. The basketball star won big with the Chicago Sky in 2021, helping the team to secure their first championship win during the WNBA Finals, but none of her teammates knew about the grueling surgery that she endured almost two years prior that could have jeopardized her entire career.

While speaking with ESPN’s Holly Rowe during an exclusive interview, the 27-year-old athlete revealed that she had to undergo an intense nine-hour surgical procedure to remove a rare benign tumor from her spinal cord and the recovery process was so painful, that she almost considered retiring.

“I remember being in so much pain. My whole body went into contraction. I had no control over my arms,” DeShields said.

Rare Tumor: Lumbar Spinal Schwannoma

During the height of the pandemic in January 2020, doctors found a grape-sized tumor on DeShields’ spinal cord called a lumbar spinal schwannoma. According to ESPN, the rare condition only accounts for five percent of all spinal tumors.

The growth wasn’t cancerous but, if the 6-foot-1 inch shooting guard didn’t have it removed, the tumor could have caused damage to her spine and possible paralysis due to pressure, but the surgery itself also presented challenges.

Doctors told DeShields that she was at risk of damaging her spinal cord during the procedure because of how delicate the area was.

“Think of it like a grape pushing on this nerve,”  said Dr. Edwin Ramos, the neurologist who performed DeShields’ life-changing surgery during the interview.

“We have to peel that grape-sized mass from that nerve, from that spinal cord, and from the surrounding nerve roots, the nerve branches, without causing damage or too much irritation to them.”

Luckily, the surgery was successful, but Deshields’ rehabilitation process was slow and excruciating.

 

Painful Recovery

After the surgery, the Florida native, who was drafted by the Chicago Sky in 2018, had intense tremors and painful involuntary spasms that caused her entire body to seize.  She had to undergo physical therapy to regain her mobility.

“I’m not trying to learn how to walk,” DeShields said. “I’m trying to learn how to run and jump and defend and do all the things that, you know, a basketball player is supposed to do.”

Thankfully, after six days in the hospital, DeShields was finally moved to an inpatient rehab facility where she was determined to regain her strength. The basketball star pushed herself to the limit, opting to do additional physical therapy sessions for nine days straight. At one point, medical staff had to place an alarm on her bed because she was sneaking out to do exercises on her own.

 

The Comeback

DeShields wasn’t fully recovered when she decided to return to the WNBA bubble, but she knew she had to be there for the sake of her team.

“I need my teammates more than they probably need me right now,” DeShields said, before adding:

“Not only was I dealing with what I was dealing with physically. There was the Black Lives Matter movement, the COVID pandemic, all this loneliness, this isolation. And I just needed to be around them. I needed the support and the camaraderie.”

The baller got up early for practice and continued physical therapy with her trainers by video when in-person sessions became difficult because of the pandemic. DeShields worked up enough strength and balance to play during the Sky opening game and went on to play 13 games before leaving the bubble for further treatment, but her off-court hiatus wasn’t long. In 2021, the athlete bounced back, dominating the season with an average of 11.3 points and she helped to push the Chicago Sky toward their first WNBA championship win.  DeShields was later traded to the Phoenix Mercury during the offseason, but now, she’s finally recovered and is ready to dominate on the court again.

On Twitter, the comeback queen told fans that she hopes her story inspires:

 

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