WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – In many ways, Skylar Scarnecchia is just your average eighth grader at Champion Middle School.
But at 13 years old, she’s a walking miracle as a cancer survivor, leg amputee and now three-sport student-athlete for the Golden Flashes.
Earlier this week, Skylar was honored with the 2019 Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award. Next month, she will be given the award during the 20th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards.
“I’ve always had a positive attitude ever since I was little girl and I think that’s what really helped throughout my whole experience,” she said.
That experience began four years ago, when Skylar started to feel discomfort on the bottom of her right foot. She was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of soft-tissue cancer. Stage-four cancer was also found in her lungs, but thankfully responded to chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, the cancer in her foot did not respond to treatment and less than a year later, Skylar was forced to have surgery to amputate below the knee.
“As a parent, you just can’t believe it,” said Skylar’s father, Jim Scarnecchia. “Right then and there, that’s something that we had to do…was pray.”
“I had to get used to it. There’s some moments where I got really sad,” Skylar said. “But I honestly always had a smile on my face.”
A few months later, Skylar was fitted for a prosthetic leg, then a prosthetic blade and soon was back on the court. She’s a starter on the eighth grade girls basketball team this season and also competes in volleyball and track.
“She does all the little things for us,” said Joe Harris, teacher and basketball coach at Champion. “She’s the first one on the floor, sprinting down the court, guarding the opposing team’s biggest players, toughest players. She gives a battle every day.”
“She’s like the phoenix that rises out of the ashes,” said Skylar’s mother, Tricia Scarnecchia. “She just is ready to spread those wings and fly and impact others and change the world.”
It’s been three years this month since Skylar had the surgery and she’s thriving. In fact, as of last week, doctors said she is officially three years in remission.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing a good part in this world,” Skylar said. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to do that now and for the rest of my life.”
“The definition of ‘Skylar’ is eternal life,” Tricia said. “[God] brought her forward and has given her that and she’s going to take it and run.”