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Sport A brain tumor diagnosis at 15 didn't stop high school senior from competing in track and gymnastics

04:10  20 january  2020
04:10  20 january  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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A brain tumor can form in the brain cells (as shown), or it can begin elsewhere and spread to the brain . As the tumor grows, it creates pressure on and changes the function of surrounding brain tissue, which causes signs and symptoms such as headaches, nausea and balance problems.

Because brain tumors can develop in parts of the brain that control motor skills, speech, vision and thinking, rehabilitation may be a necessary part of recovery. Tutoring for school -age children to help kids cope with changes in their memory and thinking after a brain tumor .

a person on a court: Arrowhead's Lily Stemper competes on the beam during the 2019 Cooney Gymnastics Invitational at Oconomowoc on Saturday, Dec. 14. © Scott Ash/Now News Group Arrowhead's Lily Stemper competes on the beam during the 2019 Cooney Gymnastics Invitational at Oconomowoc on Saturday, Dec. 14.

Lily Stemper started to notice the right side of her face wasn’t functioning normally. Her smile wasn’t as symmetrical as usual. It was harder to close her right eye. “I brought it up to my parents, like, ‘Hey, this isn’t right,’ ” Stemper said. 

It was the summer before her sophomore year at Arrowhead High School in Hartland, Wisconsin, and Stemper, then 15 years old and largely unsure of what was going on, went to see a doctor, who referred her to a neurologist. The findings were stunning: Stemper had a brain tumor. “I was just kind of frozen,” she said. 

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Pediatric brain tumors include medulloblastoma, glioma, embryonal tumor , germ cell brain tumor , spinal cord tumor , craniopharyngioma and This shows a child's tumor that likely began in the brain cells. As the tumor grows, it creates pressure on and changes the function of surrounding brain

Each year about 4,600 children and adolescents are diagnosed with a new case of a brain tumor. Stemper has refused to allow hers to define her as she wraps up a standout athletic and academic career at Arrowhead. 

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In the 24 months since having surgery that was intended to remove the tumor, Stemper has continued to compete for the Warhawks' varsity gymnastics and track and field teams, becoming one of the conference’s top hurdlers. She has maintained straight A’s. She is graduating from Arrowhead this week and will begin taking classes and running track at Carroll University next week. Her perseverance has inspired those around her.

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If a brain tumor is diagnosed , relieving symptoms remains an important part of your care and treatment. This may be called palliative care or supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms

Diagnosing , managing, and treating brain tumors is a complex effort that requires a skilled and dedicated team. Our internationally-recognized brain tumor specialists work side-by-side with experienced Barrow Neurological Institute neuro-oncologists and radiation oncologists to individualize

“Lily is my inspiration,” said her father, Andy. “I use her story and her passion to motivate me every day. What she’s overcome, the things that I’ve seen how she’s adapted, it’s incredible and she’s never complained. She’s never said, ‘Why me?’ She’s taken it and become a better person.” 

Watching and waiting 

Stemper still recalls the events of Jan. 15, 2018, the day of her surgery, as if it were yesterday, but one moment in particular stands out. “I laid down in this gown and they told me to say my goodbyes, of all things to say,” she said. “It was like a movie.” The goal of the craniotomy was to remove the tumor, but the doctors found that the tumor was wrapped around the facial nerve. 

“Unless they wanted to make my face paralyzed, they had to keep it in there,” Stemper said. That meant that the Stempers still wouldn’t have an answer about what type of tumor it is. Stemper has been placed on a watch-and-wait procedure that requires active monitoring rather than treatments that could cause considerable side effects.

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Typically, when someone has a brain tumor , the headaches start in the morning often accompanied by nausea and vomiting and get better as the day goes on, Barnett says. "Headaches that come on as the day wears on and get worse into the evening are typically not associated with brain tumors ," he adds.

She goes for checkups about every three months but, although the tumor isn’t growing, the doctors still don’t know what kind of tumor it is because they weren’t able to get enough cells for a biopsy. The toughest part for Stemper, she said, is often the many unknowns surrounding her case. “I wish I just knew what it was,” she said. “And, you know, I may never know.” 

a person jumping up in the air: Arrowhead's Lily Stemper competes on the floor during the 2019 Cooney Gymnastics Invitational at Oconomowoc on Saturday, Dec. 14. © Scott Ash/Now News Group Arrowhead's Lily Stemper competes on the floor during the 2019 Cooney Gymnastics Invitational at Oconomowoc on Saturday, Dec. 14. Her side effects include “really bad” migraines, being strongly affected by the heat in the summer and issues with nerves on the right side of her face. “It’s hard to describe what it feels like, but sometimes I say it’s like somebody is holding a hand right there,” Stemper said. “The nerves just don’t really work.” 

A two-sport standout at Arrowhead

In the moments after surgery, while Stemper was still in the hospital bed, a doctor informed her she would “have a lot of hurdles in life to overcome.” While the doctor was speaking metaphorically, Stemper went right back to going over physical hurdles after her surgery. The timing of the surgery ended Stemper’s gymnastics season and she missed a month of school, but she was determined to get back to competing.

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Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors affecting children and adolescents, with close to 5 Children who received prompt diagnosis and treatment can do well after surgery. This therapy focuses beams of high -energy radiation on the tumor tissue and a small amount of surrounding tissue.

My eldest child has a brain tumor . In fact, she has several probably cancerous areas spread throughout her brain : one very large ball in the right At 15 she was diagnosed with a very malignant brain tumor . Despite radiation and chemotherapy the tumor continued to grow, and she passed

“I don’t think there was ever a thought of not going out for track or gymnastics,” said her mother, Vicki. “She’s too determined to not have sports in her life.” Active in gymnastics since she was 6 years old, it was Stemper’s background in the sport that got her involved in track and field her freshman year as a pole vaulter. But she quickly gained a knack for hurdling. It soon became her best sport.

As a junior, Stemper took fifth place in the 200-meter hurdles at the Classic 8 Conference indoor meet and later finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles at the conference outdoor meet. She also has cleared 9 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault. “The girls in gymnastics started doing some track events and Lily found out she was pretty good at it,” Vicki said. “Track was first to just stay in shape, but then she ended up being able to see herself doing the sport in college.” 

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Maintaining a positive outlook

Stemper will run hurdles at Carroll, where the indoor track season will already be underway when she arrives on campus next week. It can't come soon enough for Stemper. “I’ve been ready to be out of high school since everything happened sophomore year,” Stemper said. “I was ready for a change. I just really learned my independence. Just ready to go onto something bigger.” 

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Early diagnosis can be an important factor in the outcome of tumors in the brain . We offer the latest treatments and techniques, such as brain mapping during surgery to protect brain function and radiosurgery, a nonsurgical treatment that delivers high radiation doses to a precise target in the brain .

While sports, family, friends and her job as a coach at Midwest Twisters Gymnastics in Hartland have been positives over the last couple of years, Stemper also has faced countless challenges. “You hope that no one ever has to go through this in their lifetime, let alone your own daughter,” Andy said.

Stemper has grown very close with her brother, Jake, but said she largely isolated herself socially in the months following her diagnosis and surgery, something she is now working to change. “The tough part was more the societal fears,” she said. “I could talk fine, everything was fine, but I really stayed away from everyone else. ... 

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“I don’t know if I felt like I was alone, but I definitely didn’t go to the recommended groups like the brain tumor group, Facebook groups and stuff like that. I didn’t really do any of it. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do now, but of course it’s hard.” 

While doctors monitor the tumor, Stemper writes daily in a journal and also keeps a log on her computer about big-picture topics regarding her tumor. She draws often in a sketchbook and has picked up music as a passion, as well. She said the people at Midwest Twisters “helped change (her) life.” It’s all a part of Stemper’s goal to be proactive and positive despite the unknown.

“It’s tough sometimes, but I’ve learned that you’ve got to just stay positive as much as you can,” Stemper said. “You can know all the stats and everything there is to know, but you have to have hope. We’re going to beat it.”

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