Published 12:00 am Friday, March 18, 2005
School rallies around ailing teammate
By Jason Norman
On Wednesday afternoon, the Nansemond River girls soccer team was scheduled to play its first home game of the season. But for the first time in three seasons, Britanie Pelletier wouldn’t be stepping onto the field with the rest of the ladies in red and black, heading into the goal to shut down opposing offenses.
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Diagnosed with a brain tumor in December, Pelletier would be forced to sit out her farewell season. But she still planned to be a part of the team, managing them from the sidelines.
Unfortunately, the opener wouldn’t be played; the rain and winds postponed it. However, a teammate called Pelletier, and told her that the squad would be having a meeting in the school auditorium.
Pelletier’s mother Tracy Robinson pulled her van to the edge of the school, and got out to aid her daughter. With a shunt attached to her back and IV’s in her arms, Pelletier needed help walking through the doors.
&uot;I was upset that we wouldn’t play,&uot; she said. &uot;I just want to go to the meeting.&uot;
Pelletier and Robinson headed through the hallway, and slowly pushed open the auditorium doors…
Just about a year ago, Pelletier was playing goal for the River girls. Watching her go after opposing shots, her teammates noticed that sometimes she didn’t react as quickly. Once in a while, a ball that she normally would have stopped would slip through her hands.
Pelletier noticed it as well.
&uot;I was missing a lot of balls,&uot; she said. &uot;I felt dizzy, and I kept getting headaches.&uot;
Eventually, Robinson took her to the doctor, and Pelletier was diagnosed with vertigo and put on medication. Then the vomiting began.
Back to the doctor, and the verdict this time was a sinus ache. But things didn’t get better for the Lady Warrior.
&uot;She kept saying how the top of her head was hurting,&uot; Robinson recalled. &uot;She would lay on the floor and scream that it hurt so much.&uot;
In early December, migraines were blamed. Three days later, Robinson walked into her Burbage Grant home and saw her daughter on the floor, in as much pain as ever. They headed straight to the emergency room.
Soon after, Pelletier saw a neurologist. On Dec. 13, he performed an MRI.
&uot;The attendant came out and said that the doctor wanted to see us,&uot; Robinson said. &uot;I knew something was wrong.&uot;
She was horribly correct; the doctor had found a cancerous tumor the size of a grapefruit on Pelletier’s cerebellum, a condition called medulla blastoma.
Robinson started to cry. Pelletier didn’t.
&uot;Can I still play soccer?&uot; she asked hopefully. &uot;My team needs me!&uot;
Sadly, the doctor told her that her diagnosis would probably keep her out for the season. For the first time that day, Pelletier burst into tears.
&uot;Soccer was my heart,&uot; she said.
Now the team had to deal with losing one of its biggest assets.
&uot;We were all shocked,&uot; said fellow senior Hannah Moyer, who played for two years with Pelletier. &uot;Every player is close to our heart, and we couldn’t believe what she was going through.&uot;
On Dec. 18, Pelletier underwent a 12-hour operation to remove the malignancy. Then the chemotherapy and radiation began.
Her long blonde hair fell out. Her weight dropped quickly. Fluid built up in her back, and the shunt had to be inserted. She needed help to stand or walk, and was constantly nauseous and feverish. But on Valentine’s Day, the squad held an indoor tournament, and Pelletier showed up with candies for everyone.
&uot;We couldn’t believe that she would do that,&uot; said teammate Brittany Dye. &uot;No matter what, she puts everyone before herself.&uot;
With the season drawing closer, Moyer, Dye and the rest of the team decided to get together to let Pelletier know how much she meant to everyone. As Pelletier stepped through the door of the River auditorium, she found out how special to so many she truly was.
As she walked up the small ramp leading into the room, a cheer went up from her teammates, lined up on stage. Rows and rows of classmates and teachers stood up and cheered. People called Pelletier’s name, and said that they’d missed her so much. Up and down the walls, posters displayed Pelletier’s photo and get-well messages.
This was no meeting. It was a celebration. It was a welcoming. It was a way of saying thanks to a player that had battled an opponent stronger than any soccer player, and come out standing.
Pelletier made her way to the stage, and Robinson (who’d been in on things since a few days before) and coach Daryl Yandle helped her into a chair. In the middle of the line of applauding players, Dye stepped forward.
&uot;This is for you, Britanie,&uot; she said. &uot;All these people here are here to support you. Look, we got our shirts!&uot;
Several members of the team turned around, as if they were modeling their new white T-shirts. On the back proclaimed the slogan for the season: &uot;’05 is for Britanie Pelletier.&uot;
&uot;We love you,&uot; Dye told Pelletier. &uot;We’re dedicating our entire season to you.&uot;
An emotional Yandle told the crowd the story of Pelletier’s Valentine’s Day treats.
&uot;It really shows how special she is,&uot; he said. &uot;With the ordeal that she was going through, she was still thinking about her friends and teammates. She still has the heart and love. Britanie, you’re my inspiration too.&uot;
The team gathered around their weeping teammate, and joined hands.
&uot;1-2-3,&uot; they chanted. &uot;BRITANIE!&uot;
Pelletier came down to the seats, and her teammates gathered around her.
&uot;I feel like one in a million,&uot; she said. &uot;I don’t think anybody could know what pain I’ve felt. This makes my day. I really appreciate you guys showing up. It really shows that you care.&uot;
Robinson stood near the stage, watching her daughter reunite with the team she’d been away from for too long.
&uot;I know that this will lift her spirits,&uot; she said. &uot;This is what she needed. She hasn’t been feeling well lately, and she can’t keep anything down.&uot;
In two weeks, Pelletier will begin another round of chemotherapy and radiation to insure that the cancer won’t be back.
But she will.
&uot;I’ll play again,&uot; she vowed. &uot;Someday.&uot;