TAMPA, Fla. – It’s been two years since Meredith Bissette’s last softball game in a University of South Florida Bulls uniform, but her presence with the team hasn’t faded.
Bissette was diagnosed with chordoma cancer in 2016. The disease can present anywhere along the spine and although the tumors are normally slow to progress they are relentless and can recur after treatment.
Sometimes the lowest moments in people’s lives are the most revealing.
Before leaving for treatment she wrote 11 words on a sheet of paper and slipped it into coach Ken Eriksen’s locker.
Hey coach, everything’s gonna be okay, I promise. Much love, Meredith.
Small sentences can carry the most weight and Eriksen still holds those two close to his heart.
“I still carry it in my wallet,” he said of the note. “She was more worried about me than she was about the situation.”
In the midst of the biggest battle of her young life, Bissette refused to let the team fall apart or lose sight of the goals they set out for the season.
“When you are around good people, it’s not hard to rally,” Eriksen said. “She was the one who was the motivator behind it by telling everyone: ‘Let’s go; don’t worry about this. It’s just a little wart. A small bump in the road. I’m good.’”
It took three surgeries but Bissette’s note now reads as prophetic.
She’s cancer free, enjoying the quiet moments life has to offer, on track to graduate on time, and although the disease robbed her of her ability to play she has found ways to remain close to the game.
During the 2018 season she will be the press box scorekeeper and assistant to the director of operations for USF Softball.
But her real influence on the team transcends her day-to-day responsibilities.
“We came into freshman class together and with us both being from out of state we of course became really close,” said Cassidy Boyle, a shortstop for USF and Bissette’s teammate, friend, and supporter since 2015.
“When everything happened with Meredith, it was so hard. She told us as a team and she was probably the strongest one there when it went down, she was strong for everyone else. That’s what Meredith embodies as a person.”
While wading through the worst thing to ever happen to her, Bissette not only found strength but found a way to share it with everyone around her. Two years later, that strength remains.
“She became a pillar,” Boyle said. “We embodied her strength as a group and I think that’s carried with us, especially for who was there during that season. That’s definitely been a part of us during our journey.”
In all likelihood Bissette will never play for USF again, but she doesn’t have to be on the field to make a difference.
Remarkable people have a way of changing lives even when they aren’t there day in and day out.