Lt. Cmdr. Alanna Devlin Ball formerly assigned to SEAL Team TWO as a naval supply officer is competing in her first DoD Warrior Games in the swimming, rowing, and powerlifting competitions.
Ball, a cancer survivor, began having headaches over a several year period.
"I had been with SEAL Team TWO for about a year and for three years before that I had been at the Pentagon and Bahrain. I had these headaches, and I would have to leave during the duty day. I just dealt with it and went back to work," Ball said. "After a year at SEAL Team TWO it got worse, so the doctor ordered an MRI, and it came back that I had a mass in the right frontal lobe of my brain. That stopped everything in terms of work. I had the mass removed about a month later and was diagnosed with brain cancer."
She remained committed to serving with SEAL Team TWO but decided to get further treatment in her hometown of Boston.
"I was still with the Team, but I decided to get treated in Boston at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute since I was raised in Boston. My husband is also active duty and was on a ship, but his command allowed him to accompany me during my treatment. So, we packed up three dogs and stayed with family there," she said. "I went through about ten weeks of chemo and radiation and then went back to Virginia Beach back to the Team and became part of the USSOCOM Warrior Care Program. I would stay on a pill-based chem for another year and a half. Unfortunately, I was unable to deploy with my team which was frustrating."
While she was still receiving treatment, she was contacted by Marina Letourneau who is the USSOCOM Warrior Care Program Recovery Care Coordinator assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group TWO. Letourneau asked Ball if she wanted to go to USSOCOM's DoD Warrior Games selection camp.
"I did not even know what the DoD Warrior Games were. I had been in the Navy for quite a while. Marina explained what the games were, and it sounded like fun. I could concentrate on something other than my treatment," said Ball. "I swam my whole life competitively, so the swimming competition was a definite for me. The rowing and powerlifting were fun too; so, I will compete in those as well."
In 2020, the Warrior Care Program encouraged her to try out for Team USSOCOM at their selection camp held in Tampa, Florida.
"I had been training everyday throughout radiation and chemotherapy treatment so I knew I could do it. I tried all the sports and ultimately was selected to compete in swimming, rowing, and powerlifting events for the games," Ball said. "Participating in this camp enabled me and my husband to focus on something other than the immense physical, psychological, and emotional effects my surgery and treatment had on me. The Warrior Games represent an exceptional display of motivation and perseverance, and I am excited and grateful to represent Team USSOCOM."
Although she was enduring a traumatic time in her life, she expressed gratitude for the USSOCOM Warrior Care Program for helping her navigate her healthcare.
"The USSOCOM Warrior Care Program has provided me and my family with amazing support and empathy, while providing incredible opportunities to explore and experience alternative avenues to both heal and thrive," Ball said. "The people in the USSOCOM Warrior Care Program also assisted me with my USSOCOM fellowship and the medical board process, providing insight and guidance, from start to finish."
Ball expressed not all the competitors at the DoD Warrior Games will show visible injuries and some of those competing will have hidden conditions.
"One of the biggest things I have experienced is that people cannot always see an injury. You will see people in the DoD Warrior Games who do not show an injury, but there is a reason they are there. It's why I am there," Ball said.
The DoD Warrior Games is held in Orlando, Florida Aug. 19 – 28.