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2018 Warrior Games winner, mother, cancer fighter

Vet, cancer fighter, warrior
2018 Warrior Games winner, mother, cancer fighter 02:14

Every year since 2010, the Department of Defense's Warrior Games bring together wounded service members in a supportive and competitive environment to enhance their recovery and rehabilitation. This year, 300 athletes from all branches of the armed forces came to the Air Force Academy for the event. CBSN brings you five stories of these "American Warriors."

Army Spc. Lauren Jahn gets emotional when talking about it — recalling the time she saw an American flag flying outside her hospital room and couldn't stand to salute it.

"It really hurt," Jahn says, referring to both the physical and mental anguish she was going through. "All of the hopes and dreams I had, it takes a while to realize that they're gone."

Just a few months before that moment in the hospital, Jahn had enlisted in the U.S. Army. She'd made it through basic training mostly unscathed save for some pain in her shins, something she attributed to the intensive running regiment. When she finally decided to see a doctor about the lingering pain, she expected to get a clean bill of health. Instead she got doctor's orders for an MRI, and a phone call no one likes to get. The doctor said she needed to discuss her results in person.

The day after Thanksgiving in 2016, Jahn found out she had a rare form of bone cancer called adamantinoma.

Army Spc. Lauren Jahn recovering in the hospital after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called adamantinoma. Lauren Jahn

Jahn recalls thinking, "How could this happen? I'm at the beginning of what I wanted to be a 20-year career."

Her options for treatment were stark. Take out a large section of her tibia and replace with cadaver bone, replace part of the tibia with a metal rod, or amputation. She chose the first option and "hoped and prayed" that it fused correctly and healed well.

The following months of recovery were challenging. The single mother of three young children — Hannah, 7; Abigail, 9; and Matthew, 10 — had to fight off depression as she also learned to walk again. She spent six months in a wheelchair.

But it was during this time that Jahn found out about adaptive sports — things like wheelchair basketball, seated volleyball and track and field — where rules have been modified to let people with disabilities compete on a level playing field. When she decided to try out archery, she discovered a new passion in life.

"I had no idea I was going to love archery this much," Jahn says. "And now it's like the air I breathe."

Army Spc. Lauren Jahn competing in the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. Warrior Games

Jahn took home second place in Archery at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games, where CBS News met her. She now has her sights set, no pun intended, on qualifying for the Paralympic Games, or even the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

"I want my kids to see that it doesn't matter what you go through in life, you can still be active, you can still chase your dreams."

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