11They knew she had been a standout player for USC Aiken and, "we were scared out of our minds and wouldn't even talk to her the first couple of practices. ... Now we all love her," Sarah Grace said. The team has enjoyed basketball success and will play for an independent league championship later this week, but the middle school girls have learned some other important lessons from Legg, too. They began to understand early in 2010 that their coach had been diagnosed with uveal melanoma in the spring of 2009 and had lost an eye. Last May, they found out that Legg's cancer had returned, this time in the form of lesions on the right side of her liver. "We all cried," Sarah Grace said. "It was awful, but we're completely behind her. You would never know she has cancer. She just has a positive attitude and inspires all of us everyday." Legg has been getting experimental treatment, including radiation, from her specialist in Philadelphia. All but one lesion have been shrinking, she said Tuesday, and the doctor is monitoring that one carefully. The good news is that she hasn't needed treatment since August, Legg said. Her next visit to her doctor will be Feb. 21. Sarah Grace did much of the coordination for a fundraiser in support of Legg at a basketball doubleheader at Mead Hall Monday night. Before the girls' game with Curtis Baptist of Augusta, Legg and the graduating eighth-grade players were presented with flowers. The girls from both teams met at center court, and the Curtis Baptist coach provided a moving prayer for Legg. Everyone was in tears, said assistant coach Christie Shuford, mother of eighth-grader Stephanie. "These girls love Meredith," Shuford said. "She is an instant magnet when she walks through the door." Legg spoke at a USCA basketball game last week to promote raising funds for the research her doctor, Dr. Takimi Sato, is doing in the area of uveal melanoma. She urged that people get any unusual problems with their bodies checked out promptly. Cancer can happen at any age, said Legg, who is 23. Following the Mead Hall girls' game Monday, a shootout was held, and the winner received an autographed basketball from Legg. T-shirts and wrist bands were sold to help the young woman with travel costs and other expenses. She then expanded on her message. "I don't think people should get down on themselves," Legg recounted Tuesday. "I don't look at things in a negative light. When you have cancer, you have to go on living and live like every day might be your last." She recently flew to Toronto and met nine other young survivors to film a YouTube video in behalf of the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, named for a man who died of the disease at 32. She spoke about her illness and for her support of a preventive program for melanoma. She expects the video to go viral, Legg said, obviously pleased by the possibility. Over the past two years, her faith has grown, and Legg prays for people who don't have that foundation. She knows she couldn't have gotten through the tough times without it. She works for the URS Corporation as an accountant, but the constant for much of her life has been basketball. The treatments have left her fatigued and have limited her on-court appearances. But Legg has discovered that she loves coaching, which includes an AAU squad of eighth-grade girls, the Aiken Elites. Several are from Kennedy and Schofield middle schools, along with Emily Koger from Mead Hall. Most of her Mead Hall players don't have that kind of talent, but Legg has found that experience just as joyful. All the girls have become her little sisters. "I think God for giving me the gift of basketball, so I can use that gift to teach little girls," Legg said. "Some had never picked up a basketball. Now some are starters and others have scored for the first time. They're really close and support each other." Christie Heaton, Sarah Grace's mom, said Meredith has been a tremendous mentor for her daughter and the other girls. She never acts like she's ill, just focusing on the games and improving the players' skills. "The entire school has come together," said Heaton. "Meredith has done so much for the school. She has taught my child a lot, and Sarah Grace wold love to follow in her footsteps and fight her own battles with such a positive attitude." At the basketball game, the seventh-grader talked to the crowd about her older friend, speaking without notes. She started crying midway through and just kept on going. It wasn't that long ago, Sarah Grace said Tuesday, that she had stage fright and would have been petrified about appearing in front of so many people. "Ever since I talked to Meredith about it, she told me to do whatever I'm capable of," Sarah Grace said. "She is such a great role model, and I'd love to play basketball for the rest of my life. There are so many life lessons with basketball." One of those lessons, Legg said, is to live a normal life and not let the cancer defeat her. She goes to Philadelphia every month for the tests and, if needed, the treatment regimen. In a way, she lives in two-month increments, but that's a lot better than being in the hospital all the time, she said. "I am extremely blessed," Legg said. "Regardless of the cancer, I've had a really great, blessed life." Contact Rob Novit at rnovit@aikenstandard.com.