ORONO, Maine — Andi Foster was tired. Unusually tired. All the time.
She also had a dry cough she just couldn’t shake.
“I thought it was mono or something like that,” said Foster, the ace of the Orono High School softball pitching staff.
Then her neck became swollen.
When Jerri Foster took her daughter to their doctor, Patricia Small, Small immediately ordered a battery tests.
The tests eventually led to a biopsy and it was discovered that Foster had stage one thyroid cancer.
She learned of the diagnosis on Monday, April 23.
“I was in shock. My parents asked all the questions. I just sat there quietly. I didn’t know what to say,” said the 18-year-old Foster.
The positive news is that the prognosis is “very good,” according to her mother.
“On the [May] 15th, she’s going in for surgery at Eastern Maine Medical Center,” said Steve Foster, Andi’s father. “They are going to remove the thyroid gland and cancer cells on the right side of her neck and some lymph nodes. Then they’re going to put everything back together.”
Steve Foster said his daughter will be in the hospital overnight and, after she returns home, will begin a regimen of synthroid.
Synthroid is a medicine used to replace a hormone that is produced by the thyroid gland to regulate the body’s energy and metabolism.
In August, she will undergo radiation therapy that entails taking a pill and remaining in isolation for three days.
Despite the diagnosis, Foster didn’t want to hang up her spikes. She has been pitching since fifth grade and has worked with pitching guru Bob Mercer on a regular basis.
So, she will continue to play for the Riots until her surgery.
Foster hasn’t let the diagnosis dampen her spirits or her competitive nature.
She has been an inspiration not only to her teammates and coaches, but to opponents as well.
“She is somebody everybody should look up to,” said Orono senior shortstop Caleigh Paul. “This shows how much this sport means to her. We’re behind her 100 percent. We wear blue [wrist] bands for her.”
“She is an inspiration. To be going through what she’s been going through and to still come out and play hard, she really makes everybody get going,” said senior right fielder Leya Bryant.
Her teammates are dedicating the season to her.
“It’s my senior year and I want to finish it up as strong as I can,” said Foster, who had three hits and four RBIs, including a two-run homer, a double and a game-winning two-run single with two outs in the seventh inning of an 8-7 triumph over Dexter on Wednesday.
Jerri Foster said she hasn’t been surprised by the way her daughter has dealt with the situation.
“She’s always been amazing. She’s a tough kid,” said Jerri Foster.
“We’re very proud of her,” said Steve Foster. “She is very mature. It hasn’t been a huge surprise to me that she has handled it this way.”
Andi Foster admitted that it has been “tough.
“But I’m trying to get through it,” she said.
She is still having to deal with the fatigue but she said the adrenaline rush generated by her competitive nature during games “definitely kicks in.
“When I come in to the dugout between innings, that’s when I notice that I’m tired,” said Foster.
However, she maintains her focus.
Foster and her parents have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support.
In recent games against Bucksport and Dexter, members of those two teams presented Foster with flowers after the game and hugged her.
“We wanted to do something nice for her,” said Dexter junior pitcher Libby Kain. “My grandmother was just diagnosed with cancer for the second time and we have a kid at school who was just diagnosed with it.”
“I’ve definitely been surprised how much support I’ve received,” said Andi Foster. “It’s amazing. It’s so nice. I really appreciate it.”
Jerri Foster added, “It’s very sweet. There wasn’t a dry eye. It has been wonderful. And [Orono High School] has been very supportive as well and that has been very helpful.”
Foster also plays basketball but softball is clearly her first love.
Steve Foster said she has taken pitching lessons from Mercer since fifth grade and she played in two leagues last summer, including a travel league that saw her play throughout New England.
“She works very hard at it over the summer,” said Steve Foster.
She pitches with a facemask after getting hit in the face by a softball while pitching in Lowell, Mass.
Foster reached a special milestone against Lee Academy on Friday: she collected the 400th career strikeout for her career.
“I definitely wanted to reach it. It’s pretty important to me,” said Foster, who has a 3-2 record so far this season.
She admits she is a little nervous about her upcoming surgery.
“I’ve never had to stay overnight in a hospital since the night I was born,” said Foster. “But I’m sure everything is going to be okay.”
She will begin her college career this fall at the University of Maine in the bioengineering department.
“It’s not where I thought I’d end up, but everything has worked out,” said Andi Foster.
Steve Foster said his daughter could very well end up in the medical profession.
“She’s [been interested in that] since she was 5 years old,” said Steve Foster who, like wife Jerri, is glad their daughter is staying close to home.