Leukemia fighter Moriaru set to return!
Leukemia fighter Morariu set to return
(Jul 3) LONDON (AP) - When former Wimbledon doubles champion Corina Morariu was diagnosed with leukemia 14 months ago, the last thing on her mind was ever playing tennis again.
"It was more of a case on focusing on staying alive," Morariu says. "It wasn't even a fear of not playing again, but a fear of not being around." Morariu, now in remission from her cancer, laughed softly at her remark over the phone line Wednesday during a conference call from Dallas, where she is working with a new coach, preparing for a comeback.
Her first stop is next Monday in Philadelphia, where she will play with her World Team Tennis team against the New York Hamptons. She'll then play a few WTA tournaments, including doubles at the Acura Classic in San Diego at the end of the month, with her goal the U.S. Open beginning Aug. 26.
In late November, when she came out of a three-month hospital stay after four courses of chemotherapy, none of that seemed possible.
"I couldn't walk 20 yards," Morariu, 24, said. "But I started back slowly by walking, then adding a little bit of jogging. I gradually tried to get my body back into shape.
"The same thing with hitting - 15 minutes every other day, then 30 minutes, and I worked it up from there. Since mid-April, I've been trying to hit a few times a day, trying to get back into good enough shape to play matches again."
Before her illness, Morariu's highest singles ranking was 29 and she was ranked No. 1 in doubles for part of 2000. In 1999, she won the Wimbledon doubles title with Lindsay Davenport and in 2001 the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Ellis Ferreira.
Four months after her Australian Open win - in May 2001 - she began feeling extremely sick. For several months earlier she had suffered from frequent nosebleeds and unusual bruising.
"In hindsight, I had had some benign symptoms for months," Morariu said. "But in a couple of days, my health deteriorated very dramatically.
"I had been told a few days earlier what it might be, so I had some time to prepare. But obviously it came as a huge shock."
"I was in critical condition by that time, so it was almost a relief to know what it was, that I was going to get treatment for it."
Along the way, she got help from family and friends, including Jennifer Capriati. "I hope everyone prays for her recovery," Capriati said when she won the 2001 French Open just as Morariu began the toughest part of her treatment.
At last year's U.S. Open, she travelled to New York to spend time with friends before returning to Boca Raton, Fla. for another round of chemotherapy. Looking pale, Morariu wore a scarf over her head after losing her hair as a result of the chemotherapy.
"I got a lot of support from a number of players and people in all forms, girls that came to support me the hospital, so many wonderful people, Jennifer's dedication," Morariu said. "I can't describe the feeling."
Slowly, she realized she might beat the leukemia.
"At first, it was just a case of fighting the disease and hanging in there. But once I started getting better and had to figure out what I wanted to do with myself, I thought I'd give it a shot."
In May, Morariu became an international sports ambassador for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the United States.
"It's something that's very important to me," said Morariu. "I owe my life to all the people that have worked to raise the awareness ahead of me. It's one of the reasons I'm still around."
Still around, and a tougher person.
"I don't think anyone could confront this and not come out a stronger person," she said. "It was the ultimate challenge to confront a life-threatening situation like that. I feel that some things are so unimportant in the grand scheme of things."
For that reason, she isn't putting pressure on herself in her comeback.
"I've never been one to set goals," she said. "I know it will be tough when you are out for so long. I'm not under any delusions that everything will be easy.
"I know it will take some time, playing matches in a competitive environment. But I will try my best. For me, it's more about the journey and what I've learned in the past year."
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