“Goal! Pride! It is Sarah Apple Hagen! And how do you like them apples?”
That was the call this past Sunday in the 11th minute when Sarah Hagen’s header from an Alex Morgan cross found it’s way into the back of the net. The Orlando Pride went up 1-0 on the Seattle Reign, and Hagen scored her first goal for the team. This goal, however, had an extra special meaning to the 26 year-old forward from Appleton, Wisconsin.
When she was 15, and an all-state star on the pitch for Appleton North High School, Hagen noticed a strange lump in her lower abdomen. When she did core exercises at practice, a searing pain emanated from the lump, which got bigger and bigger each day.
After several trips to many different doctors and a multitude of tests, a biopsy confirmed her fears: it was a tumor.
“Why me?” was the question Hagen asked herself after the ovarian cancer diagnosis. She then spent over four months going through three intense rounds of chemotherapy, each one presenting its own problems from allergic reactions to pancreatitis to near-kidney failure. Hagen, recalling the ordeal, reflected, “I was so young, it all happened so fast.” But her battle, she says, “made [her] a stronger person, both on the field and off the field.” Her fight, however, had yet to end.
On May 6, 2005, Sarah Hagen was wheeled into surgery to have her tumor removed. With the help of her doctors, Hagen had beaten cancer.
That day, May 6, is a day Hagen celebrates every year. “Wherever I am, the people I’m closest to always know how much it means to me.” This year’s celebration, which marked eleven years cancer-free, was done with the Orlando Pride. “It makes me cherish the people that are in my life, my teammates… even the whole organization, you know, that day is so special for me.”
Just two days later, on May 8, in front of her home crowd, Hagen made a special time in her life even more extraordinary with her first-ever Pride goal. Hagen herself put the moment in perspective, perhaps better than anyone else could.
“How fitting is was that I celebrated such a big part of my life just two days ago, and to be able to score my first goal for the Orlando Pride, it was pretty special.”
How fitting, indeed.