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7-on-7 Training Academy honors Sara Lewis with Award of Courage

Posted: Friday, Mar 14th, 2014

WATSONVILLE — It’s usually said that stepping out on a football field, basketball court or any other sporting event as an athlete takes a lot of courage.

But Sara Lewis makes that look like a cakewalk.

The 7-on-7 Training Academy football camp put on by former NFL player, and Watsonville High alum, Sherman Cocroft and his nephew Nick Johnson is dedicating the Award of Courage to Lewis.

For the past four years Lewis has been fighting Behcets Disease. The disease is one of the rarest on the planet with the chance of a person having it being 1/200,000 people according to MayoClinic.org.

The disease is so rare that doctors around the world are still scratching their heads about what exactly causes the disease.

“It’s the least we can do,” said 7-on-7 camp executive vice president Alonzo Carrera. “For the courage she shows everyday to still have a smile on her face is amazing.”

The disease first reared its ugly head in 2010, according to Lewis, when she was at a graduation party for her sister. She came down with Salmonella poisoning and her illness escalated from there.

Lewis, the daughter of Freedom Meet Lockers & Sausage Co. owners Howard and Debbie Walker, said that for two years doctors were baffled at her condition, and they all suggested it was cancer.

The disease, also called Behcet’s syndrome, is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks some of its own healthy cells.

Nobody knew what was truly affecting Lewis until a friend suggested Behcet’s disease.

Lewis went online and the second she saw the symptoms, she knew it was a match.

“I just said, ‘oh my gosh that’s it,’” Lewis said. “Everything matched up.”

Lewis was finally diagnosed in 2012 and her life completely changed.

Since then, Lewis has been invited to share her story with the world to show others that they are not the only people out there fighting this disease.

She’s made appearances at the state capitol for International Rare Disease Day in late February and another before Congress to spread awareness about her disease.

“I got share my story and I got to hear that I’m not fighting this alone,” Walker said.

Today there is still no cure for Behcet’s, so it has all been trial and error for Walker in these past two years.

Everyday Lewis takes an experimental mixture of pills, which include up to four chemotherapy pills, in hopes of ridding herself of the disease.

But so far there has been no advancement in a possible cure.

“I know that I’ll probably have to deal with this for the rest of my life,” Lewis said. “I can’t be a miserable person about this. I knew I had to be positive about this.”

Two big reasons for her positivity, her daughters: Hailey, 10, and Kyndall, 8.

“I don’t know what I would do without them,” Lewis said. “My entire family has been amazing through all of this.”

Since Lewis has shared her story, more people have come forward and joined the American Behcet’s Disease Association.

The first time she made the trip out to Michigan to meet with the members of ABDA, she was greeted by only 12 people, but the second time around the number doubled and Lewis said she hopes it keeps growing.

“It’s really about getting awareness up and letting people know they’re not alone,” Lewis said.

At the March 8 7-on-7 Training Academy football camp, which featured their largest turnout of 85 kids, five kids were chosen as recipients of the award.

Kanae Soto II of Fullerton High, Justin Nobida-Lagrimas of Palma High, Adrian Valdez of Palma, Christian Rebottaro of Monte Vista Christian and Johnathon Hugo of Monte Vista Christian.

“For everything she’s going through, it shows a lot of courage that she’s staying strong,” Carrera said.

A plaque that will be engraved with all the winner’s names will be kept at Freedom Meat Lockers & Sausage Co. in Watsonville.

The Watsonville-based company is one of the camp’s biggest sponsors.

When Carerra proposed the idea to Lewis she broke down in tears.

“I just lost it,” Lewis said. “It’s beyond words what this means.”

Cocroft, Johnson and Carrera are hosting another camp on April 18 at Cabrillo at noon and plan to have Lewis on hand to present the award.

“It’ll be big to have her out there,” Carrera said. “She really exemplifies courage.”

For the complete article see the 03-15-2014 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-15-2014 paper.

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