WHEN FORMER WASHINGTON STATE OFFENSIVE LINEMAN RILEY SORENSEN MADE HIS COLLEGE COMMITMENT SIX YEARS AGO, HE NEVER KNEW HOW DRASTICALLY LIFE WOULD CHANGE IN PULLMAN. AS EVAN CLOSKY REPORTS, RILEY HAS EXPERIENCED A LOT OF LOSS IN HIS LIFE, BUT HE'S ALSO G None
PULLMAN, Wash. --- If you know former Washington State Cougars offensive lineman Riley Sorenson's story, you might not think of him as a lucky person.
But Sorenson begs to differ, with girlfriend Elisabeth Haffner by his side.
"She's in it for the long haul," Sorenson said, "she's in it for the long haul and I cannot thank her enough."
Life has brutally taken many punches at Riley, but Elisabeth refuses to let him fall.
"She's been instrumental in how I've been able to handle everything. She's always here if I need anything," he said.
And that's been a tall task.
Throughout the past 19 months, both of Riley's parents have died and Sorenson was diagnosed with and, later, recovered from testicular cancer.
"We've had a lot of perspective in this past year and a half," Haffner said.
Riley, somehow, made it back on the football field for his senior season to start for the Cougs, but after the Holiday Bowl was over and the NFL didn't come calling, it was time for him and Elisabeth to figure out what was next in their lives.
Before they could figure that out, however, a decision had already been made for them.
"Dr. Morgan calls me and says, yeah, your blood tests look good, but there was something on the CT scan and we think there's a tumor in your abdomen," Sorenson said.
The cancer came back. Haffner remembers her immediate reaction.
"Your heart breaks," she said, "and your heart drops and it's everything."
The next four months became fairly scripted for Sorenson very quickly.
"They called on Tuesday, went in Thursday, put the port in Friday and started chemo Monday," he said.
That was June 26. On July 17, Sorenson received his second round of chemotherapy. If all goes according to plan, his last trip for chemo to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston should be September 1.
"I'm trying to keep everything organized," Haffner said, "and stay on top of everything and be that pillar of strength so that he doesn't have to focus on it."
Between driving, cooking, cleaning and working part-time, she does it all. It does not go unnoticed by Sorenson.
"Her chemo days are harder than mine because for me, a hard day is I sleep for 18 hours," he said.
That type of responsibility for someone in their mid-twenties takes it toll sometimes, Haffner admits.
"I mean, this is the person I love most in the world and this is hard for me too," she said.
Luckily for Elisabeth and Riley, they don't have to fight this battle alone.
"Out of all of this what's made me cry the most is the support. Just, see there I go. It's just. It's incredible," she said.
"I don't have words for it because it's such an incredible gesture by everyone," Sorenson said.
So when life gets tough, and I mean really tough, Riley and Elisabeth can depend on friends, family and Cougs, near and far, to help out.
"Just to see that kindness it really shows the community and empathy and the support and love that humans can have for one another," Haffner said.
Growing up is never easy, and the idea of invincibility has been stripped away. But the fight now, will only make for a stronger couple in the future.
"I think our relationship has a very solid foundation that just means when we get to do the fun, young, wild and free stuff that it's going to be that much better because we know if something happens at that point, we'll be OK. We'll be able to get through it," Haffner said.