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Teen's undeniable spirit won't let cancer get her down

Tanna Kingsbury

LETCHER -- Tanna Kingsbury is nothing short of an inspiration.

There's not many 15-year-olds that can battle cancer and still keep a smile through the hardest of times.

But her spirit is being tested again. Cancer is back and Tanna's fight is on again. But she takes great pride in the fact that she's not fighting alone and that her support goes far beyond the little community of Letcher or her friends and supporters at Sanborn Central High School, where she'll be a sophomore this fall.

"I'll get messages from people all the time and they're saying 'We're here and praying for you,' " she said last week in an interview with The Daily Republic. "It's other communities that I don't really know that are pulling for me and that's a special feeling."

Kingsbury is one of three honorary co-chairs for the 17th Annual Heart and Sole Cancer Walk which starts at 6:30 p.m. today at the Mitchell Middle School.

It's been a hectic week for Kingsbury. She started treatment again in Rochester, Minn., with five of her 15 chemotherapy treatments scheduled over a nine-week span. Tanna's mom, Lynette, said there's no official prognosis at this point. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in March 2013, which is a cancer that affects large bones in juveniles and young adults and the same disease is back.

"I'm just disappointed," Kingsbury said. "Three months of trying to get back to normal and then finally being a normal kid again and then you have that terrible news and basically have to start at the starting line again."

If one didn't know the story of Kingsbury, it was magnified in March. Kingsbury played in the waning minutes of a state girls' basketball tournament quarterfinal game. The next night, with her Sanborn Central/Woonsocket squad on its way to the championship game, Kingsbury got in the game again and scored on a short shot from the baseline. The appearances in the games met a longtime goal of Tanna's: to play in a basketball game during the season.

"Just the experience of going to state was amazing, and getting the experience to play was just a cherry on top," she said.

She played as many as five basketball games in a single day earlier this month prior to her diagnosis and was working to get back into shape for her favorite sport. Regardless, Lynette said she's proud of the fight her daughter has shown.

"She is very, very tough and strong and she has stayed pretty positive through all of this," she said. "I think that has helped her get through some really bad days. She has had a really good attitude for a 15-year-old who missed a year of her life."

More than 100,000 people have viewed her CaringBridge journal website in the last year to track Kingsbury's progress. She said the stretch of social media has also helped grow the support of "Tan-Dog's Team," the unofficial support group of Kingsbury and her effort to beat cancer.

Discovering her own strength in the process, Kingsbury has proved to be an guide for those with similar diseases, both younger and older.

"They might say 'Oh, it's back' and I just always tell them to never give up on yourself," Kingsbury said. "You always have to fight back, no matter what they throw at you."