Cancer survivor Jessica Breland thrives in WNBA

Indiana Fever player battles back after diagnosis

INDIANAPOLIS - Jessica Breland is a 6-foot-3-inch powerhouse on the basketball court for the Indiana Fever, but she overcame a serious diagnosis to get there.

Breland has been a basketball fanatic from early on.

"I always had a basketball in my hand, and my parents are just like, 'Why are you outside playing basketball with all the boys? Shouldn't you be inside?'" Breland said.

At age 8, Breland knew basketball was her future, but a diagnosis in 2009 changed everything.

"I went from being Jessica Breland, the basketball player to Jessica Breland, the cancer patient," she said.

Breland was a starter at the University of North Carolina when she was told she had Hodgkin's lymphoma. In an instant, basketball became a much less significant priority.

"At the time, I was more worried about my life," she said. "At that time, it's just like wow, dying has to be so much better than having poison pumped into you."

The fear could have consumed Breland and ended her basketball career, but she was resolute.

"What you put in your mind comes out of your life, and with God, you can overcome anything," she said.

Breland has been building back ever since that 2009 diagnosis. She's now in remission and finishing up her first full season in the WNBA.

Breland is averaging 5.3 points in nearly 15 minutes a game. If she has her way, she'll be playing more next year in Indianapolis.

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