A Rollergirl Beats Cancer: Salisbury Native Eva Paxton’s Inspirational Story

“Any obstacle that I have encountered or that you may encounter gives us a profound opportunity to feel empowered by simply recognizing that we have control over our own lives. There are many things that are beyond our control (like being diagnosed with cancer) and when we encounter those obstacles, we simply have to let go and accept. But learning to accept the things which we cannot change helps us to recognize all of those situations that we can change. If you feel powerless in a situation (maybe a bad relationship, your health or your career) ask yourself- is this a situation I should accept and learn to be happy with or is this something that I can and should change? Let go of excuses, learn to accept and go with the flow, or be ready to paddle upstream.”

Rousing words spoken by Eva Paxton: 22, an Eastern Shore native, athlete, founder of Salisbury’s critically acclaimed Rollergirls, and cancer survivor.

Eva originated the Salisbury Rollergirls (SRG) after skating just a little under a season with the Wilmington Ruff Rollers (now Diamond State Rollergirls) in March of 2010. The Salisbury Rollergirls EVA SHORE BREADtrained for a year then took on their very first bout (competition) in March of 2011. The Salisbury Rollergirls are now getting ready to enter their fourth competitive season and first season of the women’s Flat Track Derby Association, meaning the SRG will be working towards a ranking and, optimistically, playoffs — “thanks to the dedication and passion of all the skaters and volunteers involved,” Eva proudly proclaimed. Amazingly, before roller derby Eva didn’t skate. Eva attempted to teach herself a few months before beginning but didn’t really begin skating before her 18th birthday.

Not only was Eva an amazing athlete and role model to her team members but she was a cancer combater and, better yet, survivor. After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at just 19 years old, Eva unfortunately was unable to participate in her team’s bouts. “I didn’t want to risk injury and delay my treatment, also I had a port in my chest to infuse the chemo and I couldn’t really be whacked in it.”

An amazing trait Eva carries is her over the top optimism; rather than becoming ill and dismayed, Eva saw the cancer as a major opportunity. “Being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma when I was 19 was an incredible opportunity. Many people have a hard time recognizing that because, of course, no one wants to be diagnosed with cancer — and neither did I, but once I was I knew immediately that it was a chance for me to demonstrate to others that by changing how you react to a situation, by seeing the positives, you can change how that situation impacts your life. For me, the diagnosis brought perspective and gratitude to my daily life.”

Shortly after being diagnosed, Eva joined up with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) as a volunteer and ambassador. She competed in the Eagleman 70.3 triathlon with Team in Training just two weeks after finishing chemo. “It was so rewarding to raise funds for research — the money poured in from loved ones and strangers. It was very moving. I feel a sense of responsibility to raise funds because I know that LLS grants helped in the development of Rituxan, one of the chemotherapy drugs I received during treatment. It was a breakthrough drug — it doubled the survival rate for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I know that the money LLS puts towards research now will lead to more breakthroughs and help more people survive— who will appreciate their lives as much as I do,” Eva stated.

LLS is currently in the middle of a campaign “Someday is Today” geared towards informing the public and to help raise funds for researchers. Eva is featured in an informational yet touching short, sharing her story with the world. “It was an honor to represent those who have battled cancer and it has been absolutely awesome to have the opportunity to give back. There is still work to be done because there are still people losing their battles.”

When asked what was the best feeling after beating cancer, Eva replied, “It was probably when I played my first game, post-chemo. I remember that moment and carry that sense of gratitude with me each time I step onto the track today.” As for the Salisbury Rollergirls, they are more than ecstatic to have their leader back. The future looks bright for SRG with ten new skaters this season; Eva strongly believes the only way is up for them and her.

For more information and ways you can help visit, cancerendswithme.org

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