Not long after Tiana Mangakahia had been included in the Opals training squad she felt a lump on her left breast.
Weeks later the then 24-year-old basketball player - Syracuse University's star point guard and a Tokyo 2020 Olympic prospect - was undergoing chemotherapy.
The Brisbane native remained in New York State in the USA for eight rounds of treatment, culminating in a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery.
Plans to dominate in a third college year and blaze a trail to the WNBA were out the window, as were any hopes of making Australian coach Sandy Brondello's squad for the Tokyo Games.
Then, with her final surgeries complete and a clean bill of health declared in January, the coronavirus spread to the United States.
With the university shut down an at-risk Mangakahia, who turned 25 in April, was given two hours to pack her things and fly home to the sleepy Brisbane bayside suburb of Victoria Point.
It is there she has slowly built up her strength and endurance ahead of what will be an emotional return to Syracuse later this year.
"I can't believe I got through it. Oh my gosh, there was just so much that went on," she told AAP.
"When I look back I just feel blessed because of the doctors and everyone I've had in my corner - my coach, my teammates.
"Playing again felt like a long way away. I was like 'what the heck, why did it have to happen now?'.
"But it all happens for a reason."
Snubbed as a late second- or third-round pick in a mock WNBA draft a year ago - a big reason behind her original decision to play a third season - Mangakahia is now projected to go in the first-round despite not setting foot on court since.
The postponement of the Olympics will also work in her favour, with Brondello sure to keep a keen eye on the university's all-time assist leader once competition resumes in November.
That is assuming the pandemic, which cancelled this year's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament, does not intervene.
Mangakahia admits she may have finally caught a lucky break.
"To think now I get another opportunity for the Olympics and to play in an NCAA tournament, it's amazing," she said.
"Now I'm kind of glad I didn't play last year, because we didn't even get to go all the way to the NCAA finals this year."
Averaging 17.1 points, 9.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds across two college seasons, Mangakahia has shown an ability to score that complements her natural passing game.
The Australia under-17 and -19 standout thinks her style would benefit the Opals too as they hunt a maiden Olympic gold medal.
"My dad called me first and said 'hey, you might still be able to play'," she recalled of the day in March that Tokyo's Games were delayed by 12 months.
"If they need me to be a scorer I can be, but naturally my focus is giving assists, so I think I'd be a great fit.
"Obviously it's what I want and it's good to chat to Sandy and know the squad will be opened up again but I'll just go with the flow."
It's a patient approach the guard said has been invaluable as she has manoeuvred her way towards the top of the game.
Six years ago Mangakahia left Australia to attend junior college in Kansas after a solitary WNBL season, only to be told she could train but not play because she was a former pro.
For two years she scrimmaged and impressed senior college coaches before accepting an offer at Syracuse, where she was finally able to compete.
"I always say that to kids. Everyone wants to go straight from high school to the WNBA but I've taken the longest way possible to get to where I want to be," she said.
"Just never give up, because your pathway is going to be different to the next person's."
Growing up with five brothers helped build her competitive streak, so it came as a shock when a recovering Mangakahia could not even run the short distance from her home to the waterfront earlier this year.
Now she's punching out daily running and gym sessions and being told by Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman to slow down.
"I just want to get back to Syracuse ASAP," she said.
"There's a lot of hype and pressure for me to come back and play well.
"It will be emotional, but I don't feel the added pressure, I'll just go and play and not worry because I'm learning to just enjoy life instead of stressing."
Australian Associated Press