Monday, June 16, 2008

Heart-warming story!

I was reading Sports Illustrated tonight, while on the couch watching the Tigers game. Under the one page section "Faces in the Crowd" was a brief story about a high school sophmore, from Michigan no less, who was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma this year, and is still her High school team's starting pitcher in softball (while undergoing chemo and radiation). I googled her name and had the pleasure of reading her story. It's rather long article, but I feel the story is so important. I know it sure lifted my spirits. Here it is:

Winning spirit
Posted by Chris Iott The Citizen Patriot May 18, 2008 08:00AM
Categories: Top Photos

Emmarie Truman, 15, provides a little off-the-field entertainment with a dance in the dugout during a game against Northwest. She pitched the second game of the doubleheader.
Emmarie Truman has found a benefit to being bald.

"I think they might be intimidated by me," the Jackson High School softball pitcher said of opposing batters. "They might not know that I went through what I'm going through."

She's been through a lot.

In January, Emmarie found out she had a brain tumor. Days later, doctors removed a cancerous growth about the size of a small lemon.

Less than two months later, she made the varsity softball team as a sophomore.

Emmarie spent a week in Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor while awaiting and recovering from surgery. She has made repeated trips for treatments since. While receiving radiation, her jaw tightened up, which made it tough to eat, drink or swallow. She has suffered at times from extreme fatigue, headaches and vomiting.

"The girl will come down here after chemo on Tuesday, and if she doesn't have a bad reaction to it, she'll be here on Wednesday," Jackson coach Jim Kolb said. "If she does, she'll be here on Thursday, glove in hand, ready to go."

Even when Emmarie took a break, she couldn't catch a break. On her first day at the beach during spring break in Florida, she was stung by a jellyfish, which led to a trip to the emergency room.

All this would force 15-year-olds to take some time off from sports -- if not school. But Emmarie is no ordinary 15-year-old.

A few years back, Kolb had a starting pitcher show up for a Saturday tournament with her nails already done for the prom that night. She asked to spend the day on the bench.

Kolb can't keep Emmarie off the field.

"She sat here one night and argued with me in the dugout about not playing," Kolb said. "She had chemo on Tuesday, and it was a Thursday night. She was like, 'I'm ready.' "

Emmarie underwent surgery Jan. 18. Doctors found that she had medulloblastoma, a fast-growing form of cancer in the cerebellum that often spreads to other parts of the central nervous system.

Eight weeks later, and four days before she completed her 30th and final radiation treatment, Emmarie made the varsity team.

Emmarie doesn't bat or play another position when she's not pitching, mainly because Kolb wants her to save her energy. She shares starting pitching duties with junior Amanda Rogers.
Emmarie is 5-5 with a 3.19 earned run average in 25 games this season for a 19-10 Jackson team.

"She's something else," senior first baseman Krissy Smith said. "Despite everything she's been through, she comes out here and she is the bubbliest, the funniest, one of the nicest girls out here.

"I'm not lying when I say she brightens my day."

Finding out about cancer

Emmarie and her parents, Allen and Elaine Truman, can see now that she was showing symptoms of cancer long before surgery. First, Emmarie complained on and off of having a sore neck.

"That probably went on a little while -- one month, two months," Allen Truman said.

Then on a Saturday morning in January, she had trouble getting out of bed.

"I just slept and slept," she said. "Finally, I got up because I felt sick, and I just ran to the bathroom, because I thought I was going to throw up. Then I physically couldn't get off the bathroom floor."

She spent most of the day vomiting then sleeping, vomiting then sleeping, vomiting then sleeping. Late in the day, she made a visit to an urgent-care clinic, where she received a shot to help with dehydration.

Two days later, while walking from Jackson High School to her home on Washington Avenue with her boyfriend, Peter Campau, Emmarie had another sign that something was wrong.

"I was like, 'I don't think I can walk,' " she recalled. "I was just standing there, and he said, 'Are you sure you're OK?' I said, 'Yeah.' "

She wasn't OK.

"I just collapsed on the ground," she said. "He had to carry me home. That was when it was kind of scary, because I really could not move."

Emmarie immediately made a visit to Dr. Souha Hakim, a Jackson pediatrician, who noticed her feeling around for the floor with her foot as she tried to get off the examination table. Emmarie's depth perception was so messed up that she was having a difficult time finding the floor.

Hakim suspected Emmarie had a tumor or meningitis and sent her to Foote Hospital for an MRI. Emmarie was admitted the following day, a Tuesday, to Mott Children's Hospital and underwent surgery on Friday.

Doctors quickly diagnosed a brain tumor but didn't think Emmarie was in any serious danger. Elaine Truman recalled a conversation with Mott neurosurgeon Karin Muraszko.

"She said, 'As tumors go, you have the lottery ticket of tumors,' because she was so sure it was benign," Elaine Truman said. "That's why they left her surgery until the last one on Friday. They kept putting other kids in front that were worse cases -- they thought."

They put Emmarie under at about 11 a.m. that Friday, and surgery began about two hours later. Her parents were updated every two hours.

At 9 p.m., they got the news.


Dealing with treatment

Doctors tell the Trumans there is an 85 percent chance Emmarie will never have medulloblastoma again. But keeping cancer from coming back is hard on the body.

Emmarie underwent 30 radiation treatments in the two months following surgery. Two weeks after surgery, she had lumbar puncture surgery -- a spinal tap -- which showed no cancer cells in the central nervous system. She continues to go through cycles of chemotherapy that are scheduled through March 2009.

Her schoolwork has suffered. A straight-A student before cancer, Emmarie missed several days of school during surgery and recovery. Her last report card had some B's and a C, Elaine Truman said.

Emmarie is active in extracurriculars. She is the sophomore president of Mark Pride, a school spirit group, and is involved in yearbook. All this and athletics leave her little time to contemplate any fatigue or discomfort she might feel from treatment.

"I just kind of tell my body to shut up and make myself do things," she said.

Emmarie 's parents are inspired by her attitude. So are her doctors.

"She's really inspiring," said Mott neuro-oncologist Patricia Robertson. "I've had kids who were in bed the whole time that they're undergoing this or having to be admitted to the hospital because of side effects."

Said Elaine Truman: "She's not going around acting like a cancer patient. ... She's not taking the victim mentality."

Tough times

Emmarie did her best to stay strong even when times were tough, including when she began to lose her hair.

"She didn't tell me the first time she got a gob of it out in the shower, because it bugged her so much," Elaine Truman said. "She couldn't talk for a couple days. She barely said anything.

"She started losing it on a Tuesday night, and that Friday night she came to her dad and said, 'Will you shave my head for me?' "

Emmarie said going bald was an easy choice.

"I was losing it," she said of her hair. "My hairline was pushed back like two inches. I'd look better without it. No matter how bad it looked, I knew it would look better than it did."

Emmarie, who doesn't wear a wig or a hat, puts a positive spin on her baldness.

"It has made me stronger, definitely," she said. "It's almost made me a little more confident in a way, because if I can still be myself without hair ... then I'm certainly sure I can once I have all my hair back."

Another rough time was when, in the days that followed surgery, Emmarie saw tears in her father's eyes for the first time.

"I had never cried about it really until I saw my dad cry, and I just lost it," she said. "But I was doing it because I saw my dad in a weak situation. That's the reason I was upset then."

A good example

Kolb said Emmarie has set an example that other players have followed. The effects of nicks and cuts, scrapes and sore muscles don't linger when you have a teammate who is battling -- and beating -- cancer.

Kolb mentioned his daughter, second baseman Angie Kolb, as an example.

"Every time she comes to me and says, 'I did something to my back,' or, 'I did something to my ankle,' I'm like 'OK ... ,' " Kolb said. "And she says, 'I know, I know.'

"It puts things in perspective."

Emmarie often tires in the late innings. That's when Kolb looks to Allen Truman for guidance on whether to leave Emmarie in the game.

"Every time she starts beating on her chest or shrugging her shoulders with her breathing, I have to look at Al," Kolb said. "Of course you want to win. You want to win, and if she's throwing good ... it's delicate. It really is."

Kolb faced the dilemma during a recent doubleheader against Grand Ledge. Emmarie struggled a bit in the seventh inning, and Grand Ledge mounted a rally. Jackson still led, but the outcome was in doubt.

Kolb went to the pitcher's circle. Emmarie 's part of the conversation could be heard by the fans in the bleachers.

"I really am fine," she said boldly to Kolb and her teammates before getting out of a bases-loaded jam to finish off a 6-4 victory, the first Jackson win over Grand Ledge in five years.

"I've had pitchers in that situation who would have crumbled, who would have started rolling their eyes and patting their mitt," Kolb said. "She just keeps chucking it. She's a competitor.

"Even in losses -- if she would have given up that game, you wouldn't have seen a change of emotions. She just would have said, 'OK, we'll get 'em next time.'"

That is how Emmarie deals with tough situations. Leave the past in the past. Appreciate the present. Look forward to the future. No matter how tough things are.

"I think that my radiation was the one thing that I just absolutely could not stand," she said. "That's pretty much it. My chemo was bad, but now it's gotten so much better. Everything's just gotten better.

"I've gotten used to everything, so it's not that big of a deal anymore

1 comment:

Mike Flanagan said...

I just read the story about Emma Truman, and was quite moved by it...

I am on the board of directors of the Tug McGraw Foundation, and we focus on supporting research to enhance the quality of life for patients, families, and caregivers affected by brain tumor diagnoses...

We would like to send Emma a gift package in recognition of her courage and determination...Is there an address to which we could send it?...Thanks for listening, and feel free to call me anytime...


Mike Flanagan
Board Member, Tug McGraw Foundation
1618 Broad Run Road
Landenberg, PA 19350