Two weeks ago the best women’s basketball players in the country found out where they’d be playing pro ball during the WNBA draft. It was supposed to be a big moment for Tiana Mangakahia too, who would have been waiting to hear her name called but instead, it was just bittersweet.
“I was thinking this would have been me,” Mangakahia said. “Today I would’ve been like am I going to get drafted? Today would have been my day if what happened didn’t happen.”
What happened was a stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis in June that sidelined the SU guard for what would have been her senior season.
“It was difficult at the time,” said Mangakahia, as she reflected on her eight chemotherapy treatments along with a double mastectomy. “But looking back, I just cannot believe I got through it…I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without the community, without my teammates and coaches and I think definitely my friends on the team.”
With that help, plus a positive attitude, Tiana is back on the court.
“I just knew that I would be okay. In the back of my mind I knew I’d be able to come back and be better than I was.”
Judging by her videos, she’s well on her way, but it wasn’t easy. Especially after reading online that after a mastectomy, basic things like doing a push-up would be difficult.
“It was just hard to push myself,” Mangakahia said. “Once I got through the first week of shooting and working out I was like what? I can do a push-up, I can shoot! It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”
While the cancer may have caused a detour in her basketball career, her goals haven’t changed.
“I want to be the best point guard in the country, and I do think that is possible,” said Mangakahia.
Even more possible, because going through a breast cancer battle at 24 years old has made Tiana tougher than ever.
“I definitely came out stronger and my mental state of mind is where it probably would have never been to, gotten to in my entire lifetime,” said Mangakahia.
Next year at this time, she hopes to be the one celebrating after being drafted, but before that, she wants to celebrate a national championship with the Orange.
“I think it’s very possible. I think that with this team that we have, most of us have been returners from three years now. We are bonded and I think it’s such an achievable goal.”
As for advice for those going through adversity of their own, Tiana says it’s all about a positive attitude. That’s advice that we all can live by.