Sam Murray

Sam Murray

Six months after captaining the Stevenson University women's basketball team during her senior season, Sam Murray sat in a doctor's office at Sinai Hospital waiting for her diagnosis.

After leading the Mustangs in scoring and being named team MVP as a junior in 2012, Murray had begun experiencing discomfort in her right knee as she prepared for her senior year. At first, she thought there was damage to her meniscus. She played through it, refusing to give up her final year of basketball to injury.

But when the doctor walked into the room that day after her senior season, her life changed.

It was cancer. More specifically, parosteal osteosarcoma, a low-grade tumor nearly 5 1/2 inches long that reached from her kneecap into her femur.

Murray, 22, said she took the news in stride, going about her everyday life as best she could.

"It didn't really affect me that much," she said. "I had one break down moment in there when the doctor spoke the words and after he left. That was pretty much it for me."

Months after having her knee and half of her femur replaced, Murray is working as a graduate assistant in Stevenson's athletic department, and Saturday she'll be at the center of an awareness effort at Owings Mills Gymnasium.

Several programs around the nation wear pink to raise awareness for breast cancer. But for Stevenson's men's and women's basketball doubleheader against Albright College on Saturday, yellow — the color representing bone cancer — will be the color of choice for players, coaches and fans.

Inscribed on the back of Stevenson's yellow warm-up shirts will be the words "All Hail Sam," a phrase the Mustangs frequently uttered to her in jest during her time on the team. The men's and women's teams will also wear yellow shoe laces, and the first 50 students to arrive will receive a yellow warm-up shirt.

"The Pink Zone is going to make a ton of money off the Division I programs," said Stevenson women's coach Jackie Boswell, who has known Murray since she was 11. "I said 'Let's do something a little closer to home. Let's do a yellow game, a bone marrow cancer game.' The kids were all for it."

Murray, who played in high school at St. Paul's, said she expects to get emotional when she see's the outpouring of support.

"Everyone has always been there," she said. "My coaches have always been supportive. My teammates have always been there. It's awesome seeing how many people care about you. It's pretty special."

While Murray tried to remain upbeat after her diagnosis, the news was devastating for some around her, especially her mother Robin, who said she cried herself to sleep every night for the next several weeks.

"Her biological father died when she was 20 months old," Robin Murray said. "Both my parents died from cancer. She hasn't lived a life and seen how fragile life can really be. Life is so short. She's still 22 and I guess kids at her age still think they're invincible."

One doctor wanted to begin Murray on chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and eventually amputate a portion of her leg. But the family elected for her to undergo a major leg surgery. On Oct. 1, Murray had her knee and half of her femur replaced.

After 12 days in the hospital, the surgery was deemed a success. Murray has remained cancer free, and the chances of a reoccurrence are slim. Despite warnings from her doctor, she said she's determined to run again.

"I didn't have to go through radiation," Murray said. "I didn't have to go through anything like that. I had a surgery and that's pretty much it. There are other people out there who are fighting cancer, so I see myself as pretty lucky."

ptierney@baltsun.com