A hidden obstacle on the course couldn’t stop Beth Broschofsky from completing a 4K cross country run.
In similar fashion, cancer couldn’t eliminate her desire to be an athlete.
At a cross country meet Aug. 31 in Maple Lake, Broschofsky saw the previous two years of her life — and cross country career — mimicked in an instant.
In her first meet as a senior captain for the Pierz cross country team, Broschofsky tripped on something along the course and face-planted.
“She could’ve quit the race right there, but she didn’t,” said Pierz coach Rey Zimney.
Broschofsky got to her feet, kept going and finished the race. It was similar to the way she plans to complete her senior season at Pierz, two years after she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in her upper-right arm.
“I’m trying to make things better,” Broschofsky said. “I don’t want to be known as the girl with cancer.”
A titanium rod sits in place of the cancerous bone.
“She’s a very determined person,” said Beth’s mom, Joanne Broschofsky. “Doctors like to give you worst-case scenarios, but Beth said ‘they don’t know me and what I can do’.
“That’s the way she is.”
From court to course
Broschofsky was a gifted long-distance runner going back to her freshman season as a member of the Pierz track and field team, but she played volleyball in the fall.
She placed third in the two-mile run at the 2010 Central Minnesota Conference meet and Zimney asked Broschofsky to join the cross country team as a sophomore.
Broschofsky ran her junior season with her right arm in a brace and still holds her arm close to her side when she runs, but she’s still able to participate in cross country.
Volleyball wouldn’t have been an option.
“I’m glad that I can still play sports and that I’m not out completely,” Broschofsky said.
Just two weeks into her first season of cross country practice — in Aug. 2010, before she ever had a chance to run a meet — Broschofsky felt a bump in her right arm.
She felt pain in her arm when she made throwing motions. Yet through a couple of doctor visits, the problem was still undetermined.
Broschofsky didn’t remember bumping the arm or falling on it; there didn’t seem to be a reason for the pain.
The Broschofskys visited a bone specialist in the Twin Cities and they got their answer.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” Joanne Broschofsky said. “I remember they called me to pick up the x-rays. I asked what they thought it was and they said Ewing’s.
“That was the beginning of the sickening feeling I had in my stomach like the world pulled the sheets under out from under you. I was walking in a daze for a while. I started asking ‘Why?'”
Added Beth Broschofsky: “It’s scary because you hear all the stories about cancer and people dying from it. I had to be strong for my family. I tried to be brave for them.”
The chemotherapy treatments caused Broschofsky’s immune system to break down, making her vulnerable to germs. She had to be homebound.
“Any time you’re dealing with a young person and cancer, you always think the worst when you hear that word,” Zimney said.
Broschofsky got her education at home as a sophomore from her cousin, a tutor.
“We watched a lot of episodes of ‘Friends’ to keep things light,” Joanne Broschofsky said. “She kept her Bible with her the whole time and she trusted God. That helped her.”
Back at Healy High School, Beth Broschofsky’s friends lent their support by organizing a walk/run fundraiser to help the Broschofskys finance medical expenses, hotel stays and gas money.
Around 800 people entered the event.
“There was a lot of support and it was a nice thing for them to do, just to see how many people are there that care about you that much,” Beth Broschofsky said. “I think my family probably enjoyed it even more.”
Added Joanne Broschofsky: “That was amazing to see how many people showed up and it let the kids know they’re doing something to help.”
The course to recovery
Beth Broschofsky, determined to live a normal life as soon as possible, became a teacher’s assistant at Holy Trinity Catholic Elementary in Pierz for the fourth quarter her sophomore year.
By fall, she was back on the cross country team for her junior season, yet the transition back wasn’t completely smooth.
Broschofsky had to wear a brace made of elastic and Velcro that prevented the rod in her arm from moving around.
“Try running with one of your arms locked up,” Zimney said. “It’s not fun and it’s not natural.”
Zimney limited Broschofsky’s mileage and she often had to mix in some walking in the early weeks of the season. But she didn’t miss practice except for doctor visits, according to Zimney.
“She showed a lot of guts and courage to be out there,” Zimney said. “Just to have her back was a real inspiration. Good for her, mentally and emotionally, just to be back with the team.”
Broschofsky continues to make improvements, according to her coach. Zimney said he could tell she worked hard over the summer when she showed up to the first day of practice this August.
She isn’t a threat to win races or make the top 10 because her condition doesn’t allow it, but that’s secondary to Broschofsky.
For her, it’s all about finishing what she started.
When Broschofsky tripped in the Aug. 31 race, she shielded her right arm from further injury landed on her left side and suffered minor bruises but completed the course.
“She’s a lot stronger and a lot better this year,” Zimney said.
“She’ll continue to run because it means that much to her.”
Continue to run she will. Broschofsky said she plans to run track and field this spring for the first time since her freshman year.