Bissette leading Bulls softball from the dugout

- The softball world came together after USF's Meredith Bissette was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called chordoma.

It's a cancer that affects the bones in the base of the skull and spine - and just one in 1-million people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year.

But Bissette returned to the field last month and her presence is guiding her teammates to live out every moment like it’s their very last.

"It's nice to see 'MereBear,' because she's always a smiling face," said Bissette's USF teammate, Morgan Gross.

"She's so positive. Always. Literally about everything," said another teammate, Susan Wysocki.

Last year, and just days after getting her first collegiate hit, doctors found Bissette had a rare tumor. In August, doctors performed three surgeries to remove it.

This past April, she was back in uniform to receive last season's conference championship ring.

"It was pretty emotional," said Bissette. "I told myself I wouldn't cry, and I did. It was nice to just have the uniform on, get that ring that I never got with the team and it was just a great feeling."

Bissette hasn't been able to play since last March. She's going through physical therapy in hopes of returning to the game in the near future. But she's never too far from the field.

"I try not to think about the negatives," said Bissette. "Like, 'Oh my gosh. I'm never going to play again,' or 'Oh my gosh. I'm never going to hit again.' Instead, I focus more on 'How can I support them? How can I keep them from them becoming negative?' I'm literally the loudest cheerleader in the dugout, at least I try to be!"

During her treatment, just as she was about to cross home plate, she suffered another setback, but it hasn't stopped her from getting back to where she wants to be: on the softball field.

"It's progressing, but it's a very slow process," she said. 

"She's always out supporting everybody else," said Wysocki. "That gives everyone so much comfort and positivity to be able to just, like, have her around and always, like, laughing and smiling with her, so, that's so nice."

Meredith's presence never left the team while she was recovering. USF, along with teams across the country, rallied around her, using the hashtag #MereBearStrong. She's now leading her team from the dugout, offering a message that winning games isn't everything.

"You can always go up to her, even if you're having a bad game," said Gross. "I know it's especially nice to go like, 'Hey Mere, how are you?' or something like that. It's almost like a pause, refresh breathing button and I know for the team it's great to know she's back, she's a part of us."

"When I say, literally enjoy [the] little things, I literally enjoy the little things," said Bissette. "I wake up in the morning, and I'm like, 'Okay! I got to wake up this morning.' And then, 'Oh my gosh! My coffee is so good thing morning.' Sometimes I might make a 'C' on an exam. Like you know what? It's fine. I'm alive, you know, I just had the roughest what, eight months of my life? It's okay. I'm going to be, I'm going to survive. So, I just really enjoy everything I can, when I can."

And she does it with a smile on her face. 

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