Ozarks Life: Sparta senior’s challenge off the court

Kavan Walker doesn’t let Cystic Fibrosis stand in the way of him playing basketball.
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 7:21 AM CST
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SPARTA, Mo. (KY3) - At Sparta High School, some of the best lessons on life, faith, and determination can be found in its gym.

“There’s a lot of things that could keep you down,” senior Kavan Walker said. “But you just got to wake up every day and say, ‘I’m not gonna let this affect me. I’m not gonna let this bother me no more.’”

For four years, Sparta fans watched Kavan battle rival teams. But away from the court, he has another battle.

“The doctor told us do not Google it,” Kavan’s mother, Rochelle Walker said. “But of course, we did.”

“He had to miss his first day of kindergarten,” Kraig Walker, Kavan’s father added. “We drove to Columbia that day to find out he has CF.”

Cystic Fibrosis is a disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system, and other organs in the body.

“Whenever he was diagnosed back in 2010,” Kraig said, “the life expectancy for CFers was very low.”

“Around 36 or 37 (years of age),” Rochelle added.

“Now it’s almost doubled,” Kraig said.

By the sixth grade, Kavan got a feeding tube. Before his sophomore year, he developed diabetes thanks to the disorder scarring his pancreas.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a cure one day,” Rochelle said.

“Over time, it just gets progressively worse,” Kavan admitted. “I do breathing treatments every day, I take my insulin shots every day. I take probably 25 to 30 different pills a day.”

Kavan is described as just another kid. I beg to differ.

“They say, ‘try to breathe through a straw,’ put a straw to your mouth, and just try to breathe through a straw,” Rochelle said. “That’s what it can be like for a lot of CFers.”

“After a while, it just becomes normal,” Kavan said. “It’s second nature to you. It doesn’t really doesn’t affect you after a certain point.”

While most teenagers would be crushed by this diagnosis, Kavan has flourished. Never letting two letters, CF, keep him from lettering in a varsity sport.

“No one would know that Kavan has CF unless he told you,” Sparta’s basketball coach Deric Link said. “That’s what’s cool. He’s not a victim of it. And he’s been dealt this deck of cards and he’s just trying to play his hand the best he possibly can.”

“(I’ve) always been told that God gives His toughest battles to His toughest people,” Kavan said. “Never look at it as why me, you look at it as an opportunity. Look at it as the plan that He has for you.”

Earlier this week, Kavan had eight, 3-pointers in Sparta’s district semifinal win over Greenwood. Friday night the Trojans play Strafford for the district title at 7 p.m. in Fair Grove.

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