It's 10 a.m. and Lexy Morel is on her way to yet another cheering competition. But, unlike her teammates, she's already completed one challenge, repelling off at 75-foot tower with the Young Marines.
Her father, Glenn Morel lovingly describes her as, "nuts." "I'm super proud, it's crazy," said Glenn. Lexy isn't your average, active teenager. She is a 16-year-old cancer survivor with a perfected round off backhand spring and a prosthetic leg.
When Lexy was 13, she was hit by a pitch in softball. The pain lingered longer than normal and after a series of doctor visits, Morel was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor.
Lexy and her family were faced with the difficult decision of amputating her leg to guarantee the busy teen some of her former activity level back. Her father explained it was also the only way the doctor could say they removed 99.9% of the cancer. Morel has been in remission for two years.
"There's always that chance, so it's always hard work for her to go back for her check up. She's pretty brave," said Glenn.
Lexy was enrolled in the Junior Patriots Cheerleader program the year she battled cancer. The Patriots Cheerleaders remembered her smiling face that year as she watched the routine from the sidelines of Gillette Stadium with their coach, Tracy Sormanti.
A true inspiration to the team, Lexy stayed in touch with the Patriots Cheerleaders throughout her recovery and they were able to cheer her on in her journey back to health. This past summer Lexy returned to the Junior Patriots Cheerleader program as a lead tumbler and shining star in the center of the routine.
Morel didn't miss a beat after her treatments. When she was feeling up to it, she went back to cheerleading and said she picked up her round off backhand spring right away. Now as a junior in high school she's made the varsity cheerleading team again, despite a new coach, for the third year in a row.
"This year we have a new coach so I was really nervous because with new people and new things it's just different, especially being in my situation. We all had to meet a certain level to make [the team] and I made it," said Morel.
Her prosthetic leg does not slow her down compared to the rest of the team. If she ever has an issue with a specific cheering move, Morel said her coach fixes the routine so she is able to do it. Morel's quick recovery back to her fitness and athletic level has not gone unnoticed. As a role model on the squad, Morel is a motivation to her teammates.
"I feel like when people see me and I'm tumbling or doing stuff that some people can't do with two legs, that just makes such a difference and people just want to try so much harder. So I'm kind of thankful for that because some people say what I can do makes them want to do it too, and try harder," said Morel.
Her bright smile was hard to miss this year at the Junior Cheer Clinics. Morel's favorite part of the program is game days and she was proud to start the routine off with the elite tumbling group this summer. Morel said she gained a lot of friends through the program, even running into former Junior Patriots Cheerleaders at high school cheering competitions this season. She is especially thankful for her newfound friend in Coach Tracy Sormanti.
"Keeping in touch with Tracy honestly makes me happy that I know somebody that I just met when things started happening and still cares," she said.
Sormanti speaks of Morel with pride and absolute adoration. "I've learned so much from such a young girl. Lexy is the definition of courage, spirit, confidence and above all, determination. She was so focused on her recovery and moving forward with her life, she simply didn't waste a moment feeling sorry herself. Instead she chose to concentrate on adapting and excelling. And through her long journey, her sense of humor was always present with a smile that could light up a room. She is an inspiration."
Morel remained confident during her treatments and said the experience has made her stronger. The only limitation she is worried about now is whether or not she will still be able to go into the Air Force. She has wanted to join the Air Force since she joined the Young Marines in middle school. Despite everything Morel has gone through at a young age, she continues to be humble and thankful.
"When I was [at the Jimmy Fund] I met a lot of kids and we did a lot of things together as groups. A lot of them passed away, so that's the hardest part," said Morel, "Some people are complaining of little things and people I know just passed away because of cancer."
The big decisions she had to make at 13-years-old helped her learn not to sweat the small things. She said laughing, joking and smiling helped her cope throughout her treatments. Morel thanks her family and friends for lifting her spirits during difficult times.
"My mom wouldn't let me get down. She'd always have me get up and shower. She'd always do my wig and she'd put make up on me so I'd feel good about myself," said Morel.
Morel recently went to Dana Farber for a routine check-up. She can now confidently say her cancer is still in remission. Morel hopes to go to college to study something in the medical field ether after graduating high school or going into the Air Force.
When asked why she is interested in the medical field Morel said, "I want to care for someone; I just don't know which way yet."
Until then, Morel is staying busy doing well in school, challenging herself in the Young Marines, cheering on her high school teams and doing promotional appearances with the Junior Cheerleaders and Patriots Cheerleaders, inspiring many people she meets along the way.