LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - Tennis season is underway for the Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies and the GGC women's team is searching for its second NAIA National Title in three years.
"Our goal is pretty simple, we want to win a national championship," says GGC tennis coach Chase Hodges. "That's the goal and Klara's going to be a big part of that"
That's a huge statement from Chase Hodges, not that his team will be in the hunt, but that junior Klara Dohnalova will play a role.
It was exactly a year ago that Klara's world changed.
"On Valentine's Day I woke up in the morning and my neck was swollen. I had difficulty to breathe," says Dohnalova.
After a week of tests, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
"The first thought that I had was 'I'm dead in three months.'"
But that attitude quickly changed.
"I just knew that I would have to go through that terrible stuff, but I knew that I'd be back," says Dohnalova.
That terrible stuff included rounds of chemo therapy and radiation. All of this for a young woman who was five thousand miles away from home in the Czech Republic. While her parents did come to Lawrenceville to be with their daughter, Klara depended a lot on her tennis family.
"It was a total team effort," says Hodges.
One of the things that they helped her through was losing her hair, a side effect from chemo therapy.
"I loved my hair, so it was tough. Near the end of the treatment, I still had some, but you could literally see my head, so then I shaved it off," remembers Dohnalova.
Now her hair is back and so is Klara. A year after her diagnosis she is back playing the sport she loves. Although she quickly learned that she needs to ease herself back in.
"I couldn't move my muscles were so sore," Dohnalova said about starting back too intensely.
"Being a tennis player, it is just you and one competitor out there everyday, so being a tennis player, when she was faced with cancer she knew she was going to have to battle," says Hodges.
She has battled and now beaten her lymphoma. Klara is now cancer free and back out on the court and helping get the Grizzlies another national championship.