Tuckerton Leader

Enduring Cancer, Pinelands’ Meghan Crawford Pursues Hopeful Future

‘I Knew I Was Going to Get Better. It Wasn’t an Option’
By DAVID BIGGY | Jun 02, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy

Pinelands Regional High School senior tennis player Shane Nourie has known Meghan Crawford for a long time. They’re good friends. Not until March 2016, while the two were eating at IHOP in Manahawkin, did he notice something different about Meghan – half of her right ear had gone missing.

“He hadn’t noticed for about a year,” said Meghan, one of the seniors on the Pinelands softball team which won the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III championship on May 30. “He just comes out and says, ‘So, what happened to your ear?’ And I just looked at him, like, ‘You’re just noticing this now?’ It was removed the previous March. It was funny.”

But why the bottom half of Meghan’s ear was removed is not such a funny story. In fact, it’s only a small part of a bigger, scarier, and phenomenal story.

On May 16, 2014, four days before her 15th birthday, Meghan was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Fortunately, doctors said, it was caught early enough that immediate treatment could eradicate the cancer. On her birthday, she started chemotherapy – the first of three rounds – and on Oct. 23, 2014, she underwent a bone marrow transplant, which was followed by full-body radiation and chemo for another two weeks.

“It was scary at first, but I really couldn’t sit around and worry about it,” she said. “I was going to go on with my life and make the best of everything. I tried as much as I could to stay positive and happy about life. And I believe that helped a lot in getting better quicker.”

Amid all that, another problem arose. During the second round of chemo, Meghan not only suffered a seizure in reaction to one of the medications, but she also had an allergic reaction to another medication and developed a fungal infection on her right ear. Without any other option to clear the infection, doctors had to remove the lower half.

Finally, in early November, she was cleared to be released from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). But because of all the treatments she had endured, she was at major risk for infectious disease. She was restricted to her house for three months, and could only have limited exposure to the outside world for several months beyond that.

Meghan has had no relapse of the cancer since.

If beating leukemia wasn’t enough, add the fact she maintained top-of-the-class status with her schooling and her comeback is even more astonishing.

“I had a teacher working with me while I was at CHOP, and after I got home my teachers from Pinelands came to my house once a week throughout the rest of my sophomore year to give me my lessons,” she explained. “I was home-schooled my entire sophomore year and I was No. 1 in my class until the end of last year. Now I’m fourth in my class.”

And even though she’s not among the starting players on the softball team, she’s maintained her softball skills and continues to be an integral part of the program in many ways. Despite having played the game since age 8, growing up with a bunch of the current Pinelands players as part of the Little Egg Harbor Lightning team, she needed time to redevelop some of the on-field chemistry she had lost.

“It was hard at first, getting back with all the girls,” she said. “I didn’t play for two years, so I felt a little bit disconnected. It was hard reconnecting with everyone in a softball sense, being on the field with them and developing that chemistry. But it didn’t take too long to get it all back.”

Head coach Keith Lowe credited Meghan’s hard work and dedication to how she was able to carry on and maintain such a high level of achievement.

“That’s the amazing part of Meghan’s story,” Lowe said. “Even after what she went through physically, she was able to take on so much and still do it all so well. Her academic schedule is crazy. She’s taking the highest level of classes we have here at Pinelands. She’s involved in multiple clubs. She has a job now, so she works. And she’s playing varsity softball, so that’s a lot. When I was 16 or 17 years old, I don’t think I could have taken on all that.”

The past couple of years, Meghan has been part of the stage crew for most of Pinelands’ performing arts productions, in addition to membership with the Interact Club, American Sign Language Club, National Honor Society, French Honor Society and Music Honor Society. She’s also been part of the school’s jazz, concert and pep bands as flute, piccolo and alto saxophone player.

“She’s very inspirational,” Lowe said. “She’s been through more than most adults, but she keeps on going. And just the way she holds herself is incredible. She’s always happy.

“We talk about teachers teaching students, but she’s taught me a lot. Just having her around is inspiring.”

In the fall, Meghan is headed for Rutgers University. She intends to take up stage management and focus on a career she hopes lands her on Broadway someday.

“I have terrible stage fright,” she said. “I don’t like public speaking or being out in front of the crowd. But I love the theater. So when I started getting involved in it at Pinelands, I found my place backstage. I was still part of something great, but I didn’t have to be seen.”

Interestingly, she wasn’t seen on the field during the team’s 3-0 victory over Seneca in the state sectional championship game, either. Instead, she helped out by managing the scoreboard.

“That’s who she is, and it’s awesome!” Lowe said. “Whatever I need, she’s the first one to volunteer. If I need somebody to warm up the right fielder, she’s the first one out there.

“She doesn’t complain about anything.”

If it isn’t known by now, Meghan pretty much can get through anything.

“I used to doubt myself a lot,” she said. “But I definitely believe in myself and my abilities more after all I’ve been through. When I was diagnosed, I knew I was going to get better. It wasn’t an option. So now, no matter what the outcome might be, I’m willing to take on things, because you never know if you’re going to get that chance again.

“I have those chances again. So I’m going to take them.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

 

Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McDonald | Jun 13, 2017 13:58

You go girl. You have a remarkable spirit, and may it stay with you forever. You have already made a very strong and positive impression on everyone. Congratulations.



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