Unstoppable: After Scrum with Cancer, She’s Ready for Rugby

Jillion Potter
Jillion Potter

“Initially, the oncologist thought it was benign,” said Jillion Potter, who woke up after a 2013 rugby tournament with a lump under her tongue.

It wasn’t. Potter was facing a rare soft tissue cancer, one of the most misdiagnosed in the world. Stage III synovial sarcoma took her from the rugby field to a hospital room, and treatment made her feel like she had the worst flu in the world. She would walk around the grounds at the University of Colorado Hospital with her jersey and shoulder pads swinging from the pole carrying her intravenous medicine drip.

It felt like another heartbreak. In 2010, she had had a brush with a potentially career-ending and life-threatening injury. Tackled, and landing at the bottom of a pile of players in a match with France, Potter shattered her vertebra and tore ligaments. She narrowly avoided being paralyzed.

“Just like with rugby, you can get knocked down so many times,” Potter, 30, said of her treatment. She kept telling herself, “Just get back up and face it.”