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A Senior’s Strength: Molly Chenot’s storybook ending to an inspirational journey

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Molly Chenot wore No. 5 during her only collegiate game as a player. She served as Cabrini’s student assistant coach during her four-year career at Cabrini. (Submitted by Molly Chenot)

It is an injury, but it is not visible. It requires treatment, but it relies on self-assessment. It is life changing, but hope was discovered.

Molly Chenot is unique and her story is inspirtional.

“This last one was different,” Chenot said. “One month went by and things only got worse.”

A senior social work major, Chenot has eight documented concussions starting from the age of three and has been slowly recovering ever since.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury and all are serious. They are caused by collisions to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. According to the United States Sports Academy, over 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually.

Between eighth grade and junior year, Chenot suffered a total of five concussions while playing the game she loves at Montgomery High School in Skillman, N.J.

“I dedicated myself to soccer because I knew that that was what I wanted to do,” Chenot said. “I hit my head all the time, but mainly when I went up for a header.”

Chenot always had the common symptoms of being tired, dizzy and having a headache after taking a hit to the head.

After every concussion her pediatrician always said the usual, “You have to take it easy for two weeks and you can’t play until your headache is free” speech.

“A few were to the temple but the last one wasn’t like the others.”

In the spring soccer season April 2009, Molly was hit in the back of the head right where her skull starts and that affected her nerves.

“That was my eighth concussion,” Chenot said. “I stopped counting after that because I stopped playing. At this point even attending college was questionable.”

Chenot tried to attend the last few classes she had left her senior year of high school, but it was all too much.

“I couldn’t sit in class, drive…I couldn’t do homework, go on the computer or anything else that required focus for two and a half years.”

Cabrini women’s soccer coach Ken Prothero was concerned about her health more than anything. He told Chenot to come anyway, hangout with the team and to play it by ear.

“I decided to go to Cabrini College in December 2008,” Chenot said. “I knew I wanted to go to D3 where I would actually play, get time enjoy myself and not make a career out of it.”

“When we were recruiting Molly, we believed she would be a four-year starter,” Prothero said.”But a great team isn’t always about the athletes who score the most goals.”

Chenot came into freshman year preseason still hoping to get back on the field soon.

“Coach Ken was amazing,” Chenot said. “And for all the girls to accept me, it was such a good support system.”

Chenot felt horrible during preseason until she met Cabrini soccer trainer Nick Sita. While crying the whole time, Chenot received daily neck massages to keep it loose. He was the first breaking point to helping her move on.

Hope was discovered in the summer before her junior year of college when Chenot visited an eye doctor. He diagnosed her with fourth-nerve palsy.

“I went to a doctor who gave me 20 steroid injections into my neck,” Chenot said. “This ended up being final relief.”

Chenot’s nerve damage is permanent and her eyes don’t work together. But she knows “soccer is not going make or break my life.” She had to make a decision and go with it.

“After hearing her story when I first got to school, it really made me think,” freshman teammate Maura O’Connell said. “My purpose was not just to play for the school or myself but for a teammate that was never able to step foot on the field.”

“For soccer not to be a part of your life anymore was hard to wrap your head around,” Chenot said. “Working out six days a week to not being able to exercise for two and a half years was a lot emotionally.”

“Molly is an unbelievable friend and person,” Maddy Edwards, teammate and roommate, said. “She has proven that if you push through the hard times, good things will come your way.”

Chenot always kept a smile on her face. She has been part of the women’s soccer team not only as a manager but as a teammate, roommate and friend.

“Words cannot describe what Molly means to this team and to me personally,” assistant coach Jess Huda said. “She is truly an inspiration and someone I can’t imagine this team being without.”

On Oct. 27, Molly Chenot was added to the Cabrini College women’s soccer roster for the first time. With great sportsmanship from the Cedar Crest College Falcons, the game began 1-1. Tears of joy fell from the faces of players, coaches, family and friends as Chenot scored her first and only goal of her college career.

“I will never forget it,” Prothero said. “Her 15 seconds of playing was one of the most memorable moments of my soccer career.”

“They think they are lucky to have me,” Chenot said. “But they have no idea how lucky I am to have them.”

Below is video of Molly’s interview on NBC’s “Rock Center” and video of her first and only collegiate goal on Oct. 27.

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