Whitehall-Yearling High School senior Madison Pharo always has been a fighter.
Not only has she been a fierce competitor as a pitcher for coach Brian Anderson's softball team, but she was forced to battle for her life at a young age.
Pharo was diagnosed with stage 5 renal cell cancer at age 2.
After having tumors removed from both kidneys, she has only a working half left kidney. The cancer caused high blood pressure, anemia and thyroid issues.
None of it has held her back.
"It seems that kids that are touched by cancer are just fighters and never get down about anything," Anderson said. "They're always in a good mood and caring about others when they are the ones going through the battle. I went through this with my own daughter and saw this firsthand with her and other patients we were around.
"Madison is the same type of young lady. It's just amazing what she has gone through and comes out an outstanding person. Never bitter. Never asks, 'Why me?' "
Anderson's daughter, Brittany, died in 2008 from a brain tumor. She was 15. Anderson said the original diagnosis gave his daughter six months to live, but she lived four additional years.
During her high school years, Pharo had an aneurysm removed from the aorta artery leading to her left kidney and had a cyst removed from an ovary. Her mother, Rebecca, said doctors have indicated her daughter might need a kidney transplant someday, but she has been in remission since age 4 and can dictate her own limitations.
"We were told she may not do well in school and she may not do well in activities, but she's not let any of it stop her," Rebecca said. "We have to get permission from all her doctors to do sports. They've let her make the call on how she feels. She has played since she was 5 years old. I'm not surprised."
Pharo sees specialists every three to six months. Her mother said the radiation from the cancer treatments caused spinal scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that also requires treatment.
Pharo said it's important to remain upbeat despite her medical issues.
"I have been raised that it's not an option to feel like that," she said of being negative.
Anderson said Pharo's lifelong fight has been motivation for the other players in the program.
"The girls have all grown up with her and they know what she has gone through her whole life," Anderson said.
"She's definitely an inspiration. That's why she was an easy choice to be one our captains this year. We always talk about captains and two ways they can lead. They can lead by being a rah-rah, a very vocal-type person, and the other one is leading by example, and the way Madison has fought through life and things off the field and her attitude is just a great example of leadership."
Pharo has helped lead the Rams' continued progress under Anderson, who is in his second season. They were 3-7 overall and 1-3 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing Grandview on April 21.
Whitehall earned its first league win by defeating host Worthington Christian 10-9 on April 16. The Rams scored six runs in the seventh inning to take a 10-6 lead, and Pharo earned the win with a complete-game effort.
Makynzie Myers had three hits and Brooklyn Rayburn had two doubles and three RBI.
Pharo, who shared pitching duties last season with 2013 graduate Danielle Farnlacher, was 3-5 with a 5.58 ERA through 10 games this spring. She had 25 strikeouts and 10 walks in 47 2/3 innings.
Last year, she was 3-11 with a 7.82 ERA and 32 strikeouts and 25 walks in 79 2/3 innings.
Pharo has a 3.7 GPA and has been awarded a full academic scholarship to Ohio State, where she plans to major in engineering. She also is a back-row player on Whitehall's girls volleyball team and is in the marching band.
"I'm very proud of her for everything she has accomplished," her mother said. "Her grades at school are phenomenal. She's had the cancer and then ongoing from there has never once felt bad for herself. She just keeps going. She has just a wonderful attitude."
"It's not an option not to find time for everything," Madison said. "I've busted my butt ever since kindergarten."