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Clear Spring soccer player kicking cancer

November 07, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

CLEAR SPRING -- Alec Long has faced some tough opponents over the years.

None, however, matched the foes the Clear Spring High School student met in December 2007.

After having discomfort in his right arm last fall and early winter, the 16-year-old son of Greg and Marsha Long went to Smithsburg Family Practice for an evaluation, where tests showed swollen lymph nodes.

His doctor sent him for further testing to the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, where an emergency room doctor determined that Alec had severe pneumonia.

A biopsy of one of the swollen lymph nodes was performed, and on Dec. 7, 2007, Long was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system that affects the immune system. The pneumonia from which he suffered was severe because the lymph nodes could not fight off the virus, and he was put on a ventilator for 15 days.

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"The pneumonia took over the lungs at the onset of Alec's problems and that made things even more difficult," Greg Long said. "He was battling for his life. ... The doctors (Theresa York and Neil Grossman) have done a wonderful job helping Alec and our family during a very difficult period."

Alec agreed.

"It was a mess," he said. "I thought I had pulled a muscle under the arm playing basketball. Eventually, there was a lot of swelling and I had more pain. ... I spent my 16th birthday in the hospital and was in there from Nov. 26 to Dec. 24."

He has undergone chemotherapy treatments since December and endured 12 consecutive days of radiation treatments in January. His cancer currently is in remission. 

He has one chemotherapy treatment remaining, the Monday before Thanksgiving Day.

"I have had treatments once every 21 days," he said. "I'm really tired a few days after each treatment, but then I'm OK."

After returning home from the hospital, Alec had physical, occupational and speech therapy.

"When I came home, I was confined to a wheelchair, then I used a walker and then a cane," he said.

He had a tutor to help him catch up on his school work, and in March he returned to school, where he successfully passed his sophomore year and made the honor roll.

In May, Alec made the statement to Dr. York that he was not going to sit out soccer season this fall. He kept his word, playing for the high school team this fall. He hopes to make the varsity baseball team in the spring.

"I enjoy playing soccer, basketball and baseball, and hope to continue in those activities," Alec said. "I couldn't play any baseball this past spring and summer, but I did help coach one of the teams in the Maugansville Senior League with my dad."

Through the National Make-A-Wish Foundation, the entire Long family -- which also includes Adam and Ashlyn -- will take an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii in January.

The Washington County and Clear Spring community also have extended a helping hand.

"The school has been excellent, working with us and Alec throughout this whole ordeal," Marsha Long said. "The outpouring of giving we received from our families, friends, the school (middle and high), clubs, organizations, local churches and the Clear Spring community was more than what we could ever imagine. We were given gas cards, money, food, cards, phone calls and, most of all, the prayers that went out for Alec were unbelievable. You never realize just how much people care until something like this happens."

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