Taylor Ray, junior, is known all around the school for her basketball skills and outgoing personality. But she is also a beloved daughter, big sister, and friend to many.
Recently, Taylor was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma (FLHCC), a rare and aggressive form of liver cancer found in kids and adults under age 40. This cancer is different from other forms because it grows in people who have healthy livers as opposed to damaged. Treatment for FLHCC can be surgery where the doctors remove as much of the FLHCC as possible, or chemotherapy if surgery is not possible.
With this diagnosis, Taylor has had to take a break from the game she loves. She is still currently going to practices for her basketball team, but is only allowed to do shooting and light lifting.
Taylor started playing basketball when she was six years old. At first she played with her family and friends, but then started by joining a recreation league. In 4th grade, Taylor joined the Colorado Basketball Club (CBC). CBC has many different teams divided by age and skill level, so as Taylor aged she was able to excel further and is now on CBC’s top team, GUAA 17U. She also has played for the school’s varsity team since freshman year.
Different club basketball teams around Colorado have been posting on their social media accounts with #PlayForTay, #CBCStrong, and #NoOneFightsAlone in support for Taylor and her family.
Basketball and the community associated with it has brought Taylor many impactful relationships and provides her with support during this difficult time. “My favorite part of the game is all the relationships you make. My teammates have become my best friends and have taught me to smile and laugh even when things are rough. We go through the worst together and still find ways to make it fun,” said Taylor.
According to teammates, Taylor has always been one to support others, which is why she has so much support now. Close friend and teammate, Alex Pirog, said, “Taylor is an amazing teammate and player because of her constant support of others and the passion she shows on and off the court.”
Caryn Jarocki, head girls basketball coach, said, “My relationship with Taylor continues to grow as I have coached her for several years now. I can ask her to play any position on the court, and I rely upon her to play her best each game. Taylor is a great role model for the younger players and although she is shy, she sets a great example. She is kind, helpful and approachable.”
Taylor also is a big sister and role model to her little brother Haven. “Taylor has helped me be a better basketball player, helped me through rough times and showed me how to be a good person and to do good in the world,” said Haven.
Taylor not only is a role model at home and on the court, but also in the classroom. “Taylor has taken many AP and honors classes and maintained great grades while still playing basketball. She’s a very hard worker with homework and stays up late to finish whatever is needed,” said her mother, Ronnie.
Taylor first discovered her diagnosis when she went in for an ultrasound to look for a hernia. “They found a mass on my liver and sent me through a number of other tests before they diagnosed me with Fibrolamellar, which is a type of cancer in kids, ” said Taylor.
“I have felt totally normal for the most part,” said Taylor. “The worst part so far has been the pain from the tumor biopsy.” Because of her diagnosis, Taylor is more susceptible to the coronavirus and is not allowed to go to school.
“This situation caught us all by surprise. She has a tough road ahead with surgery and treatment but plans on being back on the court and in the classroom soon. We just want everyone’s prayers and thoughts for a smooth surgery and quick recovery,” said Ronnie.
The Ray family is currently in New York seeking treatment. Taylor will go through a ten hour surgery where the doctors try to remove the cancer from her liver.
“Taylor is in great spirits and ready to tackle this head on. She is counting the months of anticipated recovery to see if she will be back by high school basketball season, maybe playoffs, maybe summer club season. This is her #2 priority, #1 is beating this cancer’s butt,” said Ronnie.
The Colorado Basketball Club has created an online site with links to order Play For Tay T-Shirts and donations.
Camryn Montgomery, Staff Reporter