Friday, September 22, 2006

Young Wins Battle With Ewing's Sarcoma

Courtesy of the University of New Hampshire Official Athletics Site

DURHAM, N.H. – Sophomore outside hitter Holly Young (Dennisport, Mass.) of the University of New Hampshire volleyball team recently won her battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of children’s bone cancer, after a lung scan she was deemed “cancer free” on August 21, 2006.

Young was diagnosed on December 13, 2004 at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston during her freshman season in Durham. She started to feel pain in her leg during her senior year in high school early in 2004. Young originally went to have a lump on her right leg checked during her freshman year in Durham and was sent for a battery of tests. Kenneth Leavitt, a podiatrist at Baptist Hospital was the first to discover the tumor in her leg after taking x-rays and set up an appointment with Dr. Mark Gebhardt, the chief of orthopedic oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Gebhardt ordered additional tests and arranged for Holly to begin chemotherapy with his colleague, Dr. Holcombe Grier, a well respected oncologist at the Jimmy Fund Clinic and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In May of 2005, Young had surgery at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston to remove a tumor and underwent a procedure in which the doctors removed a six-inch piece of bone from her right fibula.

“Having to take a year off from school upon diagnosis was one of the most difficult experiences of my life,” said Young. “It would have been even more challenging had I not had the love and support from my head coach, Jill Hirschinger, and my teammates. Jill did so much more for me than I could have ever expected. From organizing the Volley for Holly fundraiser to Holly’s Wall, she did everything in her power to support my family and me. When I returned to school, she threw a welcome back fiesta at her house with my team and continued to drive me to appointments in Boston. I can’t thank her enough for everything she did for me in the past year and a half. She is an amazing woman, coach, and friend.”

With the treatment that Young received, there is a 30% chance of a two-year, event free survival and of that 30%, six of 17 patients showed a positive response. In Young’s case however, the prognosis was delayed and was caught very late, because as an athlete, they usually play through pain and injury. The cancer had spread to her lungs and in the words of the medical community the chances were “unacceptably poor.”

Young went through 26 sessions of chemotherapy over a span of one and a half years, beginning in December of 2004. Young spent most of her time during therapy at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital.

“While I was in the hospital my parents, Bernie and Carolyn, made the three hour round trip to Boston from Cape Cod daily. Having them there really helped me get through it. In their absence my doctors, nurses and the Jimmy Fund staff couldn’t have been more caring and helpful. They made each and every visit to the clinic a little more bearable. I would like to thank them for everything they did and continue to do, not just for me, but for the entire cancer community,” said Young.

Young participated in many programs, including the Dream Street Foundation, which is organized like the Jimmy Fund and gives children with similar illnesses a chance to talk and get to know each other. The Dream Street Foundation provided a stay for 20 kids in a Tucson, Arizona spa, where she discovered she was not the only Division I athlete to have cancer. While on the trip to Arizona, Young met Graham Tatters, a men’s soccer player from University of North Carolina-Charlotte who was diagnosed with T-Cell lymphoblastic lymphoma approximately two years ago.

Young is now back on campus taking classes and while physically recovering is attending every practice in hopes of one day getting back on the court. Young is also a member of UNH’s varsity diving team and is one of only a handful of Wildcat athletes to participate in varsity two sports on campus.


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