CINCINNATI — Purcell Marian freshman guard Cy'Aira Miller is determined to persevere in school, on the basketball court and in life.
"She is just a special kid," Purcell Marian girls basketball coach Jamar Mosley said. "And just to know what she went through and where she's at today just brings a lot of joy to my heart."
Miller was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2015 when she was 8 years old. Her life drastically changed over the course of two-plus years.
At one point, Miller asked her mother, Kelle Gentry, if she would die.
"I was just really weak," said Miller, now 14 years old. "I wasn't really able to move. I was either in a wheelchair or a hospital bed."
When Miller received her first round of chemotherapy during one of several hospital visits, her body wasn't able to tolerate the treatment, so she couldn't eat normally.
Miller lost all her hair. She could barely hold a basketball. She often cried with an upset stomach. Steroidal treatments altered her mood.
Despite the significant challenges, Gentry and her daughter never thought about giving up.
"I said, 'You are not going to die,'" Gentry said. "'We are going to fight until this is over.'"
That unrelenting spirit was a source of strength for the family to move forward.
"If she can get through it I can get through it and that was what I held onto," Gentry said.
Cy'Aira went into remission in February 2018. She doesn't often reflect upon the adversity she experienced years ago.
Yet she knows she is stronger because of what she battled. She is grateful for life and those around her.
"I learned that I was strong and God put me in a position where he knew I was going to succeed," Cy'Aira said.
Success has followed Cy'Aira in school and on the basketball court. She is a promising guard on the varsity basketball team with her twin sister, freshman point guard Ky'Aira Miller.
"It's fun," Cy'Aira said. "It's like an accomplishment being a leader on a varsity team after everything I've been through. Coach Jamar (Mosley) really gave me a chance."
Cy'Aira and Ky'Aira are part of a talented Purcell Marian team which starts the season in November. Purcell Marian was a Division III state semifinalist this past March.
"I think our freshman class is just a special class," Mosley said. "Especially Cy'Aira – as you're talking to her she's staring you in the eyes. If there is something she doesn't understand, she is going to ask questions. I mean she is one of the most coachable kids, the toughest kids that I've ever coached."
Cy'Aira takes honors classes, enjoys playing the Taboo board game with her family and has aspirations of starting her own business one day.
"Every time I see her in life, just any life obstacles – on the court I see her toughness – that brings me back to that day that she's a fighter," Gentry said.
"I don't care what you throw at her. She's a fighter and she's going to fight. And that's her personality."
Mosley said Miller is one of the most focused student-athletes he's coached. Miller recently told Mosley about her determination in life.
"The way she plays on the court – she's never going to give up," Mosley said.
"She is going to be the first player down the court. She is going to win every sprint. She is going to dive on that loose ball. I mean she is a straight-A student taking all honor classes right now. She's an inspiration to myself."