“She can’t do any sports or strenuous activities,” the doctor said in a cold, matter-of-fact way.
Entranced by his words, my mother seemed to forget that I existed. She and the doctor continued discussing my situation, while I felt as if I were eavesdropping on a conversation that wasn’t meant for me.
I can’t believe this is happening to me, I thought.
Only a few hours before, I had woken up in an ICU room. I found out that my family had been in a car accident—which left me with a 20-inch laceration across my abdomen, a 3-inch tear on my left forearm, a gaping wound where my left armpit used to be, and lots and lots of scratches.
“Wait, Mom, I have cheer practice!” I cried as realization began to set in.
Both my mother and the doctor looked at me in unison, and I could feel the pity they had for me. They didn’t even have to say a word; their faces said “no more cheer.”
I knew cheerleading was a sport that could lead to intense injuries if I attempted to participate. An article written by Dr. Mueller, Ph.D., confirms that thousands of cheerleaders are injured yearly due to the sport, particularly from head and neck injuries.
Even though I understood I could potentially be seriously hurt if I pursued cheer, I made up my mind; I was going to cheer.
About a month later, even though I had not officially been cleared by the doctor, I decided I would sneak to practice. Every morning I woke up at 5 am, before anybody was awake. I packed my backpack with athletic clothes and walked an hour and a half to my high school for our 7 am practice.
Because I was not completely healed, especially around my armpits and abdomen, I had to wrap my wounds with gauze so I wouldn’t tear or reinjure them. I did this every day before practice for about three weeks. With every passing day I felt guiltier, but I still went to practice. But one day, I was so overwhelmed by the guilt that I decided I had to tell my mom.
That day I took my time going home. I knew she would be angry with me as soon as I told her. When I got home I went straight to her room, tears already streaming down my face as I told her everything. When I was done explaining it to my mother, I looked up at her, expecting to see her face filled with anger and disappointment. Instead I saw sadness.
My mom hugged me and told me she knew I had been going to practice. I wasn’t as sneaky as I thought I was. She told me to never do it again and that she had already spoken to my uncle, who agreed to pick me up every morning for practice.
My mom ended our hug, letting me know how disappointed she was that I had not told her sooner. She even told me she had been praying God would watch out for me.
I understood why my news saddened my mother. That same year, the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness reported that cheerleading caused “approximately 66 percent of all catastrophic injuries in high school girl athletes over the past 25 years.” My reckless decision to keep cheering without a doctor’s permission could have resulted in serious injuries.
In Psalm 139, David tries to hide from God, which is impossible. He couldn’t even hide his thoughts. I thought I could hide from both my mother and God, but I couldn’t escape either of them. I chose to come clean and gained so much more.
When I think about the summer before high school, I don’t think about the cheers, the uniforms, the pom poms, or even the car accident. I think about three things: how lucky I am I have a mother who loves me; how lucky I am to have a mother who believes in God; and how lucky I am I have a God who listens to prayers.
Sunday Koung, also known as Nyasunday Koung, is a junior at Union College studying communication. Sunday was born in South Sudan and immigrated to the United States in 2003 with her family.