No Limits

Energy over illness, joy over hurt: Elly Deutch won't let setbacks slow her down

For most young athletes, overcoming adversity means getting past a sprained ankle or a losing season. Elly Deutch '08 of the Ladies soccer team has a more profound story, one in which serious illness and injury seem only to have deepened her reserves of grit and cheerfulness.

At the age of three, Deutch was taken to the doctor with a urinary tract infection. Testing, however, also revealed a rare kidney cancer, Wilms' tumor. Although she can't remember all the details, Deutch does recall chemotherapy, surgery to remove one of her kidneys, bottomless glasses of cranberry juice, an overload of stuffed animal get-well gifts, and never-ending loving care from her family.

The experience, which might have left her more fragile, transformed her in the other direction. Once sleepy and reticent, she became an antsy go-getter, excited about the start of every day, bursting with energy.

She blossomed in sports. Through grade school and high school, she ran cross country and played soccer, basketball, and volleyball. She tested every activity life threw her way, especially if it had anything to do with the outdoors.

There were countless follow-up visits to the doctor. And each one ended with the same note of caution: be careful, avoid contact sports.

"As I grew older, I didn't like that so much," Deutch says. "I didn't want to be told I wasn't like other kids, that I wasn't normal. I wanted to go out and tackle the world without limitations."

She never exactly ignored her doctor's advice. She simply used it as a gauge to remind her of what she could be missing. In addition to athletics, she dove into countless extracurricular projects--and eventually turned her attention to Kenyon, where even more possibilities became probabilities.

"I wanted to study studio art, and Carnegie Mellon accepted me, but Kenyon seemed like more my kind of people and it presented more opportunities," she explains. "My head said Carnegie Mellon, but I went with my heart and I have no regrets."

Following her first semester, and her first soccer season, serious illness struck again. Deutch's doctors discovered an ovarian cyst. It was removed, leaving Deutch with another "cool mark," as she calls her scars.

She has contended with injuries as well. Sophomore season led to a pulled quadriceps muscle. Junior year produced hip flexor and iliotibial band injuries. All in all, she missed twenty soccer games.

"Through it all, I still considered myself part of the team," says Deutch. "Even if I didn't get to play, I used my energy for vocal support and also to let everyone know I was there."

With Deutch, there's no sitting still, no timeouts, and no room for boredom. She loves to be around and learn from people, so much so that she couldn't settle on just one major. In addition to studio art, she took on anthropology.

"She is one of the strongest voices of inspiration and positive energy on the team," head coach Kelly Bryan says. "Her passion for Kenyon women's soccer and her teammates is surpassed by none. She's kept pretty quiet about her health problems and has never used them as a crutch. When the team participated in the Relay for Life last year, some of her teammates found out about her cancer and got teary-eyed. They just love her. On or off the field, she is the pulse of this team."

Deutch, who calls Chicago home, just returned from a summer of study in Argentina, another experience on a résumé that all but shimmers with energy. Besides her double major and the soccer team, there are extracurriculars, camp counseling, and part-time jobs--and no space for brooding on what might have been.

As the fall begins, Deutch is enthusiastic about kicking off her final soccer season and wants to squeeze every last drop out of Kenyon. "I've had it rough, sure, but I'm betting my luck changes," Deutch says. "There's no sense in getting down about it. I enjoy who I am, and quite simply, I'd rather be a happy person than a sad one."

--Marty Fuller

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