It had been 16 years since Tracy Snyder played ball, and five years since her last round of radiation for breast cancer.
But when the 50-year-old former catcher got the call to play fast pitch at the upcoming World Masters Games in New Zealand, she knew it was an opportunity to not only get back in the game, but also inspire others.
Snyder played competitive baseball in Ontario growing up and as an adult, but had stopped by the time she moved to Debert, N.S., with her husband 10 years ago. After the move, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and faced surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
So it was a shock when she was contacted last year by a former teammate asking if she wanted to play for the Canadian team at the World Masters Games, an international competition featuring 25,000 athletes ages 35 and up.
"I … honestly thought they were a little bit crazy, I thought there must be somebody else out there that could do this that had played in the past 16 years," she told CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning.
Demanding training regimen
But she was also excited. Snyder has been training seven days a week to prepare to compete with the Free Spirits, focusing particularly on her left side. Not only does she throw left, it's also the side where the cancer was located.
She's also been hitting and running bases at a facility in Stellarton, N.S., two to three times a week.
"It's kind of surreal but I'm hitting better than I ever used to," she said. "I think I'm stronger in muscles that I probably never focused on before, so I'm excited about the hitting part, that's for sure."
A positive example
Snyder said she had her own positive example to look to while she was sick — a friend's mother who had fought Hodgkin disease at a young age and survived.
"She was the story that kept me going," Snyder said.
In April, she'll be stepping back on the field with some of her former teammates. But she said she hopes her story will show people outside the baseball diamond that not only can they survive, but thrive following a life-threatening illness.
"I want this to be a way to empower people," she said. "If you believe, you eat well, you take care of yourself and keep your dreams going, that something wonderful can happen on the other side."