SPECIAL REPORT: McKinley Crain's Triumph Over Cancer
McKinley Crain has always loved the challenge sports bring.
"McKinley was a post player for our young kids (at the time) and so she certainly was and is someone we were excited about," said Josh Hurt, Metcalfe County High School basketball coach.
But, at the end of her 8th grade season, she was about to experience the hardest challenge imaginable.
"I had come up to practice with the high school and about maybe three practices in, my knee started hurting really bad," McKinley said.
At first they thought it was an ACL or meniscus tear, common in athletes so they went to an orthopedic doctor.
"They (doctors) came back in, and we were just expecting a meniscus outlook there or something, and he comes in and he says 'we are sending you to Vanderbilt tomorrow," said Kevin Crain, McKinley's father.
"So, he called work which he normally doesn't do and he said there's not a meniscus tear, there's a tumor and I said 'so are you saying that she has cancer?" said Sherry Crain, McKinley's mother.
The next day, the Crains traveled to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville for testing and on November 23, 2016, the day before Thanksgiving, McKinley was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor on her femur bone.
In that moment their world seemed to crumble.
"It's like your world just turns upside down right then," said Kevin Crain.
"You know shock is what your reaction is, it's hard to even come up with a visceral emotion," said Hurt.
From the day of her diagnosis, McKinley was resilient.
"I told myself everyday I was going to get better," McKinley said.
"Saying you know, I'm going to be ok, and at the end of this I'm going to have a major testimony to tell at the end of all of this," said Sherry Crain. "I could not believe her strength, we all drew from her strength."
"Just telling myself that you're not going to be another statistic almost," said McKinley.
She was able to transcend her own suffering and help her family and friends. But it was her love and passion for sports that gave her the determination to fight.
"It gave me something to take my mind off. As much as possible I'd come to games, come to practices, sit and watch and step into a reality that took me away from all that," McKinley said.
"Coming from a sports family, you know, it's been really hard anyway not see her out there like she should have been and wanted to be," said Kevin Crain.
After 49 chemotherapy treatments, three surgeries including taking out six inches of her femur bone with her tumor, on September 1, 2017 McKinley was cancer free.
"Just thanking God pretty much," said Kevin Crain.
"I don't know that many people would have been able to get through a situation like this the way she has," said Hurt.
Crain found her way back onto the court, and her character is something many would describe as an inspiration.
"Strong, tough, loving, and just willing to do whatever it takes to get back to what she wants to do," said Kevin Crain.
And what she wanted to do was get back to the game she loved.
"To see her go to the scores table and check in and come into the game, I can't even begin to tell you the emotion. I instantly had tears," said Sherry Crain.
When McKinley first stepped back on the court, she experienced something hard to put into words.
"You know there is a minute and a half to go and I looked at her and I said 'what do you think?' and she said 'yeah I'm ready' and we put her in the game," said Hurt. "We could not have scripted that."
"The minute that they saw her get up off the bench, people already started standing up and cheering," said Sherry Crain.
"You turn almost into another person on that court. You leave everything behind once you step here and you just focus on the game," McKinley said.
Sports have been her motivation, her fight, and her drive.
"I'm so proud of her because she has worked so hard," said Sherry Crain.
The minute she came off the court, McKinley was greeted by her team with open arms.
"If I needed anything they'd get me it, or just be there as a shoulder to cry on," said McKinley.
"She is just such an effusive, positive personality that has an impact on everybody around her," said Hurt. "Inspiration may be a cliche, but it's certainly been true."
"She's always said 'I'm going to beat it,' so she did. Hopefully, we'll see her here next year," said Kevin Crain.
The Crain family wants to thank everyone in the community for their love, prayers, and support over the past few years.