Redmond High’s girls soccer players have been thinking of a teammate who hasn’t always been able to be with them.
Junior forward Payton Rogerson has been undergoing treatment at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland for synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that impacts soft tissue around bones and organs in the body. After undergoing surgery Sept. 11, Rogerson returned to play Oct. 8 against The Dalles and Oct. 10 at Crook County, where she scored three goals to lead the Panthers to a 7-0 victory.
“The first goal she scored was amazing,” said fourth-year Redmond head coach Martha Segura. “The second was even more exciting. She netted that third goal, and everyone was smiling from ear to ear. It was a great way to send her out.”
The next day, Rogerson started three days of treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation. She missed three days of school, but returned Oct. 17.
“Today is the first day where I feel, probably, 100%,” Rogerson, 16, said the day she returned to class. “It was so difficult because all I could really do was lay down. Everything made me nauseous. I didn’t want to go do anything.”
Rogerson was diagnosed with a tumor in the side of her neck before the September surgery. She said the surgery was expected to be relatively simple.
“Once they cut it open, they realized it was a lot worse than they thought,” she said.
Nerves controlling Rogerson’s right arm were tangled in the tumor, allowing doctors to only remove 85 percent of the tumor, she said. Then, after tests came back days later, it was found to be cancerous.
Now, Rogerson is undergoing treatment to try to save her arm. It could require an additional surgery.
Rogerson hopes to play in the Panthers’ Tuesday match against rival Ridgeview. She said her next round of treatment is scheduled for Nov. 4, which would only force her to miss playing if Redmond makes the playoffs.
Segura said that Rogerson will play against the Ravens, who sit tied atop the Intermountain Conference with Hood River Valley), as long as she has the energy and is cleared by her doctors.
“We all support what she wants to do,” Segura said. “She didn’t get to play in our last game against Ridgeview, and she really, really wanted to.”
The Panthers will try to avenge an earlier loss to the Ravens at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Redmond High’s football stadium.
Cancer hasn’t made a major impact on Rogerson’s playing ability, she said.
“The only thing is I’m a lot more out of shape than the other girls,” Rogerson said. “It doesn’t hurt. I can’t really feel it unless I take an elbow to the neck.”
A playoff appearance would have seemed unthinkable for Redmond (3-3 Intermountain Conference, 5-5 overall) in past seasons, but the Panthers have already won more league matches this season than they have in any of at least the last eight seasons. After their 5-2 Oct. 17 victory at Pendleton, where Redmond rallied after being tied at halftime, the Panthers are within striking distance of third place The Dalles and a spot in the playoffs.
Sophomore forward Dagne Harris, who scored all five goals against Pendleton to increase her team-leading total to 17, said the team is bonding together in support of Rogerson.
“When Payton comes and plays with us, it’s really encouraging,” Harris said. “She puts every effort in when she’s on the field. It helps us to work harder.”
Rogerson, who is also a key player on Redmond’s softball team, inspires teammates to play harder and better because she can’t be on the field as much, said senior defender Brianna Heikkila, one of Redmond’s captains.
“Every game, we’re like, ‘We’re doing this for you,’ ” Heikkila said. “No matter if we win or lose, we give our all for her.”
The hat trick against Crook County was a memorable experience, Rogerson said.
“It was amazing, we definitely had a good feeling we would beat them,” she said. “It definitely would have been cooler to do it on a more challenging opponent, but it was still really cool. I don’t even know how to describe it.”
Panthers players are wearing headbands with “PR-11,” Rogerson’s initials and number, in support of her.
Rogerson’s prognosis remains uncertain. She said how well the chemotherapy attacks the cancer will determine if she needs another surgery to remove the rest of the tumor. Surgery could lead to paralysis in her right arm.
Regardless of what the future holds, Rogerson appreciates the support she gets from the team.
“Everyone is so supportive, my coach, especially, has done so much for me and my family,” she said. “It’s really cool to see how everyone is behind me through all this.”
Segura is amazed by how Rogerson has been able to make it to nearly every team activity, including sitting on the bench the day after her September surgery.
“It just makes me want to be a better person and a better coach,” Segura said. “It drives a lot of what we do every day, is to do this for Payton.”