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The Healing Power of Pickleball

Piper Vaughn credits pickleball to saving her life. She picked up a paddle and began playing with a friend in July of 2021, and it was at the pickleball court where she met her boyfriend, Shaun. And it was Shaun who was the first to notice a lump in Piper’s right breast.

“At first, I thought it had to be nothing,” Piper said. “I just had a mammogram nine months earlier, so surely it was nothing.” She called her doctor, who had her come in for a breast ultrasound and diagnostic mammogram. A biopsy the week before Thanksgiving 2021 confirmed her diagnosis. She had invasive ductal carcinoma, HER2- positive.

“I was with my entire family – my sister, brother, our kids and our mom – when I got the call, so we were all together from the beginning of my diagnosis,” Piper said. She began treatment with a lumpectomy in January, followed by six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. She has immunotherapy appointments every three weeks, which will continue through February of 2023. Through it all, she has continued to find hope and healing on the pickleball court.

“Pickleball has been my safe place; my place where I could go and feel accepted,” she said. “I met a lot of other women who had breast cancer, and they shared their stories and told me it was going to be okay.”

Her pickleball family encouraged her through her treatment, offering high fives and support as she navigated the emotional roller coaster of losing her hair. “When I finished chemotherapy, they had a ‘pink party’ for me,” she said. “It was such a comforting part of my journey, and it’s an awesome family that I feel so lucky to be a part of.”

When Piper learned that her home club – the Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach – was going to be hosting the first Komen Pickleball for the Cure National Tournament, she knew she had to get involved. She registered and began fundraising, and as of September 1, she is ranked No. 1 on the fundraising board for the tournament.

“It was really important for me to be a part of this tournament and share my story,” she said. “Pickleball is something I really enjoy, and this is the opportunity for me to compete in a sport I love while raising money to help fund breast cancer research.”

The Pickleball for the Cure National Tournament will be held October 13 – 16, 2022 at the Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach in Newport Beach, California and features events for all levels of play, including men’s, women’s and mixed pairs. There is no cost to register, but participants must fundraise a minimum of $250 to be eligible to compete. For more information, visit komen.org/NationalTournament.

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.