The 27-year-old Portsmouth High School alum, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, was hard to miss during her high school sports days, earning All-Ohio honors in softball, basketball and tennis.
Her involvement in sports didn't stop with high school and she went on to play tennis at the University of North Carolina Charlotte before going to work for the ATP tour, the organization that coordinates the international men's tennis tour.
Last Sunday, Clifford walked out onto a stadium field again — but under very different circumstances than during her past athletic career.
Clifford walked to the mound at a Columbus Clippers game last Sunday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Ovarian Cancer Awareness Night. With 25 teal-clad ovarian cancer survivors standing behind her, Clifford's pitch was high and outside but it didn't bounce.
Together with organizations like the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio (OCAO), Clifford and others are hoping to strike out a cancer that affects one in 71 women.
"It was a game to raise awareness for ovarian cancer as we kick off Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month which is this month," Clifford said. "A lot of people are familiar with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but not so many people are aware September is for ovarian cancer.
"That was kind of a dream of mine to throw out the first pitch at a professional sporting event...," she added.
Clifford was living in Florida and working for the ATP in 2005 when she was admitted to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. Five days later, the doctors came back with a difficult answer.
"I was diagnosed in stage 3C," Clifford said. "Because of my late diagnosis, my prognosis isn't as good as if I were diagnosed in stage one or stage two."
Thus began Clifford's second bout with cancer after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 14.
Clifford, who is still undergoing chemotherapy, said that her own late diagnosis is part of why she is working to help raise awareness of this disease, to help others avoid having to go through the process she has experienced.
Early detection with ovarian cancer can improve a patient's survival rate to 93 percent if found before the cancer spreads — unfortunately early detection isn't that simple yet and only 19 percent of those afflicted are diagnosed in the early stage.
Called by many the silent killer, the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be minor. They included bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating and frequent urination, though doctors caution that the presence of those symptoms do not always mean cancer.
"Right now, there is not a good screening test for ovarian cancer," Clifford said. "As a matter of fact I was diagnosed extremely late like most women who are diagnosed with it. It happens late because there are very small warning signs and no real early detection test.
"Know your body," Clifford added. "If something doesn't feel right, it's important to go to the doctor."
While breast cancer has mammograms and prostate cancer has a PSA test, ovarian cancer is difficult to test for because the ovaries are so deep in the body.
"The ovaraion cancer community looks to the breast cancer community as a guide to be where we want to be someday," Clifford said. "The screening, the treatment, everything in the ovarian cancer field medically is nowhere near where it needs to be or nowhere near where breast cancer and some others cancers are."
The difficulties of detecting and treating ovarian cancer are well documented, but that's where the OCAO comes in. Next Sunday a group from Portsmouth is going to Columbus to participate in the Strides for Hope 5K Walk/Run to benefit ovarian cancer awareness and to raise funds. Locally, Portsmouth High School's football coaches and cheerleaders wore teal ribbons to raise awareness during Friday's contest against West. Clifford's father, Curt, is the Trojans head football coach.
The hope is that with more awareness can come more donations, more research, better screening and eventually, even a cure.
As Clifford said, "If people talk about things and learn about things, they're more likely to do something about it."
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com
To do something about ovarian cancer, contact Courtney Clifford at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ovariancanceroh.org to learn more.