Record breaker & cancer survivor: YSU’s Buffenbarger smiles through adversity

Sports

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Elle Buffenbarger has a big personality.

“If anybody knows me, I’m a little bit crazy in the head,” says Buffenbarger. “That’s how I stay positive. That’s how I am as a person.”

And her enthusiasm is contagious. She leads the team in laughs and has won 18 games for the Penguins over the last two seasons. At 19 years old, Elle is also a cancer survivor.

In the Fall of 2016, during a routine checkup, doctors found three unknown masses in her brother’s neck. Shortly thereafter, they found the same lumps on Elle. But hers were more concerning and all indications pointed towards thyroid cancer.   

“I didn’t know anything about it, ” says Buffenbarger. “And I was like, I don’t have time. I have my senior year coming, my summer season coming, I’m going to college in the Fall. I have no time for this.”

Elle had a choice, treatment or surgery. To remove it would threaten her vocal cords, but with the love and support of family, friends, teammates, and church Elle opted for surgery.

“The day of the surgery I had so many prayers. Like the power of prayer is real. They were with me. And I am a worry wart. I was worried before that,” says Buffenbarger. “They day of the surgery I woke up, was as calm as could be. I was like let’s do this. I’m going to rock this. I woke up. I started talking softball right away with my dad. It’s his favorite subject. And we were just chatting chatting chatting. I don’t even remember what we were talking about because I was still under anesthesia, but my mom was like of course the first thing you’d talk about when you woke up was softball.”

Elle recovered quickly, and didn’t miss a single game here senior year. In fact, she ended up breaking the school record for career wins and strikeouts. All that remains today is a small scar, and an extraordinary appreciation for life.

“I just try not to take anything for granted because it’s really easy to complain about things like oh we have to get for 6am workout, but you know what, I get to do 6am workouts,” sasy Buffenbarger. “I made it to the college level. There’s no reason, and there’s people that have it way worse than me and you see how positive they are on social media through their stories. What do I have to complain about when I made it through. And I’m at the place I am. I found Youngstown, which was the place for me.”

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