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Courage on the court

March 14, 2001

Courage on the court



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Stacey MyersPhoto: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

WILLIAMSPORT - Stacey Myers' basketball jersey carries a number 2, but her coach and teammates think Stacey is second to none.

Stacey, a seventh-grade student at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, played in her school's Girls Recreational Basketball League - missing only two games - despite suffering from a disease that causes tumors to develop throughout her body.

"She's the ultimate in courage," said Dave Barr, coach of the Green Team. "Just her will to participate is incredible."

Twelve-year-old Stacey has undergone 13 operations, including four brain surgeries, to remove the tumors that plague her body as a result of neurofibromatosis, or NF, said her mother, Patti Myers.

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The tumors are painful and Stacey tires easily, but she said she still wanted to play basketball like her twin sister, Robin.

"It's important to us for her to be treated the same as Robin," Patti Myers said. "Stacey is really starting to realize that she's different."

The neurofibromatoses are a set of genetic disorders that cause tumors to grow along various types of nerves and also can affect the development of nonnervous tissues such as bones and skin, according to the National Neurofibromatosis Foundation Web site.

Stacey has NF Type 1, or NF1, which occurs in about one in 4,000 births worldwide. The rarer NF Type 2, or NF2, occurs in about one in 40,000 births worldwide and is characterized by hearing loss.

The most common sign of NF1 is tan-colored skin pigmentation called cafe-au-lait spots.

Neurofibromas, the most common tumors in NF, are benign growths that usually develop on or just below the surface of the skin but may also occur in deeper areas of the body, according to the Foundation.

Some tumors can be removed if they become too painful or cosmetically troublesome, but a new tumor sometimes appears in the old one's place. Complications from NF1 may include disfigurement, curvature of the spine, learning disabilities, bone defects, high blood pressure and tumors of the optic nerve.

NF can lead to premature death, according to the Foundation.

"We play it day by day," Patti Myers said.

Stacey lost her right eye and a portion of her brain before she was 3 years old because of a tumor on her right optic nerve. Her doctors monitor her left optic nerve and other trouble spots through regular MRIs and CT scans, Patti Myers said.

Stacey now has an inoperable tumor in her cavernous sinus, she said.

Patti and Michael Myers said they were nervous about their daughter, who served as Coach Barr's assistant last year, playing basketball because the tumors could hemorrhage upon impact.

"The doctors keep on saying she can't do this and she can't do that because of her head," Michael Myers said.

But Stacey's excitement about being part of the team, her coach's attentiveness to her limitations, and her teammates' assistance and acceptance, eased the couple's fears, they said.

Barr put Stacey on the court in the fourth quarter of the first game of the season.

She remembered being nervous when the bounce pass came toward her as she stood open under the basket. A smile erupted on her face when she made the shot, Barr said.

"To see her make that bucket, that was the ultimate for me," he said. "It was the highest point that I've ever had playing or coaching sports."

Stacey's father captured the moment on video.

"Everybody came out of their seats," Michael Myers said. "That was a good one."

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