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“It’s like you’re in this box, and you got to punch your way out of it mentally and emotionally.”

BEHIND THE STORYTELLING: Special Olympics cyclist's words resonate with ESPN producer - who is battling breast cancer - profiling the athlete

EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN’s coverage of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi will begin Thursday (11 a.m. ET) with a three-hour ESPNEWS special featuring the Opening Ceremony, part of more than 175 hours of live coverage. This week in Front Row’s “Behind The Storytelling” series, ESPN producers share their perspectives on profiling Special Olympics athletes for feature segments that will be seen throughout the coverage. Today, Miriam Greenfield explains why these athletes are inspirations to her.

Three years ago, I learned that I had breast cancer.

A month ago, I had a scheduled 10:30 a.m. follow-up appointment at Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Hospital with my surgeon. My flight to Europe for a Special Olympics assignment was at 5 p.m. out of New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, a two-hour drive from the hospital.

My routine appointment wasn’t routine. The doctor found a mass – a mammogram and ultrasound followed that morning. The doctor thought it was just scar tissue, but I wanted a biopsy. I couldn’t get one that day, so I left for the airport and scheduled a biopsy two days after I came home.

I spent a week in Europe. The first half of the trip was profiling a basketball player from Finland, the second half highlighting a cyclist from Great Britain. I can’t say that I didn’t worry about my health when I was overseas. However, being with Special Olympics athletes made it easier especially listening to their stories of perseverance, bravery, and hope.

Kiera Byland, the Great Britain cyclist, said it best as she was recounting her struggles with depression and bullying: “It’s like you’re in this box, and you got to punch your way out of it mentally and emotionally. But there are days that I really struggled, it was awful. But deep down somewhere inside of me, I knew there was hope that I will get there, and it will be O.K..”

Having cancer and surviving cancer is like being in that box. Kiera reminded me to keep fighting and have hope.

Tune into see Greenfield’s profile of Byland during ESPN’s Opening Ceremony coverage on Thursday; the feature also is available on ESPN.com.

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