Cisti Greenwalt (left) averaged 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds a game last season before breaking her ankle late in the season. CNJ file photo.
By Rick White
Terri Greenwalt was on her way to the tanning bed when she got the call from her daughter Cisti.
The news wasn’t good.
Cisti, a forward for the Texas Tech Lady Raiders and former Clovis high standout, had been diagnosed with cancer.
Possible reason: Too much time at the tanning salon.
“I turned right around and haven’t been back since,” Terri said.
“It totally blew my socks off.”
During a routine examination for a chest cold a year ago, Cisti’s doctor discovered a mole on Greenwalt’s back that seemed out of place. He advised her to get it checked out.
Greenwalt didn’t give it much thought.
“I just kind of forgot about it,” she said. “I just went back to tanning and laying out.”
Last month, Greenwalt was diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.
Doctors removed four cancerous moles from her back and, as a precaution, five lymph nodes from under her arm during more than six hours of surgery in late May.
“I never really heard of melanoma,” Greenwalt said. “It was kind of jarring at first when I heard it.
“I never thought I’d get something like this.”
The first thing she thought about was her basketball career.
“I was scared I couldn’t play this year,” said the 6-foot-5 Greenwalt, a part-time starter for the nationally ranked Lady Raiders the last three years.
Breaking the news to her family and coach was difficult.
“My mom called and we cried and cried,” Greenwalt said. “Then I talked to Coach (Marsha) Sharp and we cried. She told me to try and focus on the best scenario. Not the worst.”
Greenwalt said doctors feel they caught the cancer just in time before it spread through her body.
They told her the chances of the cancer returning are 10 to 15 percent — 5 percent if she undergoes chemotherapy, which she plans to start soon. She’ll have to limit her exposure to the sun and get regular checkups the rest of her life — tanning is out.
Doctors suggested the chemotherapy in hopes of killing any cancer cells that might have remained in her body. But there’s a drawback. The chemo, which she will undergo five days a week for a month, will likely leave her with flu-like symptoms.
There’s also a chance she could lose some of her hair and a 30-percent chance of sterility, the doctors told Greenwalt this week. That left her uneasy.
“That’s the thing that really bothered me was possibly not being able to have kids,” she said.
Greenwalt’s in the process of getting a second opinion, including talking to a doctor who had melanoma and went through similar treatment.
Still, she’s fairly certain she’ll start chemotherapy later this month.
Greenwalt, who said she used a tanning bed two or three times a week about five months out of the year, was aware that tanning beds and extended exposure to the sun could result in skin cancer, but hadn’t given much thought to it.
She thought tanning beds were the safer option.
A doctor, she said, told her otherwise.
“The doctor told me it’s 70 percent worse than the sun,” Greenwalt said.
Proponents of tanning salons contend such exposure is safer than exposure to the sun. On its Web site www.theita.com, the Indoor Tanning Association, Inc., reports:
“Indoor tanning, for individuals who can tan, is an intelligent way to minimize the risk of contracting sunburn while maximizing the enjoyment and benefit of having a tan. In a professional indoor tanning facility, tanners are taught by trained personnel how their skin type reacts to sunlight and how to avoid sunburn outdoors, as well as in a salon. Tanning in a professional facility today minimizes risk because commercial tanning salons in the United States … are regulated by the government.”
Cisti said the support from family, friends and the Texas Tech coaching staff has been overwhelming.
Sharp, an avid supporter and fund-raiser for cancer research, has been to every one of Cisti’s doctor’s appointments.
“She’s been great,” Greenwalt said. “Having her influence and me being part of the Lady Raiders basketball program has helped.”
A spokesperson for Sharp said she would not be available for comment.
Greenwalt, who is coming off a broken ankle that cost her the last month of the season, said she still plans to play basketball this season, but redshirting is an option.
“Coach Sharp told me the main thing is my health. Everything after that will take care of itself.”