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Rare Disease Can't Stop Roberts's Dream

October 21, 2011 04:26 PM
Andrew Roberts of the USTA Mid-Atlantic "Dream Team" fights through a nightmarish disease by playing tennis.
By Katie Timinsky, special to USTA.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Andrew Roberts, a member of USTA Mid-Atlantic's 14 & Under Advanced "Dream Team," fights hard both inside and outside the lines to win. Living with a rare blood disorder, that Roberts can enjoy and excel the game is even more extraordinary than any effect of a disease could ever be.
Competing at the Jr. Team Tennis National Championships is a dream with deeper meaning for the Virginia Beach product.

"Andrew has a serious medical condition called Cyclic Neutropenia," said Helen Roberts, Andrew’s Mom and Dream Team Captain. "His bone marrow does not produce enough neutrophils to fight bacterial infections so he has to take injections every day. Without those injections, he is at great risk for becoming seriously ill or even dying."

Cyclic neutropenia is a rare blood disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of abnormally low levels of neutrophils - a type of white blood cell - in the body. Neutrophils are instrumental in fighting off infection by surrounding and destroying bacteria that enter the blood stream. Symptoms of cyclic neutropenia may include fever, a general feeling of ill health, and/or sores (ulcers) of the mucous membranes of the mouth. In most cases, individuals with low levels of neutrophils (neutropenia) are abnormally susceptible to recurrent infections.

Despite his medical condition, Andrew vowed to never let it keep him from doing what he loves.

"Tennis has taught me so many life lessons," Andrew said.  "It has made me physically as well as mentally stronger.  I try to apply the wisdom that I have gained from tennis to all aspects of my life. I could never let something come between me and the thing I love to do most."

Although Andrew has learned to cope with his condition on his own, it hasn’t hurt to have the support of his teammates.

"I am very fortunate because my teammates are my friends and they are always very supportive of me," Andrew said. "My condition is never an issue with them."

While Andrew may have a strong bond with his team, his bond with his mother is even stronger.

"My mom has captained our Jr. Team Tennis team for the past three years," Andrew said."It is great to have her at every match.  I know that she sacrifices her own needs to put mine first. I am so lucky to have her in my corner!"

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