Addie Woods was preparing for her sophomore season as a forward/center on the girls basketball team at Hodgdon High School.
She played a lot as a freshman and was looking forward to her second year.
The Hawks didn’t win a game in 2014-2015, but Woods and her teammates were ready to tackle the challenge of turning the program around.
Then the 15-year-old Woods found herself facing another challenge, one much more daunting than trying to win basketball games.
After suffering from an ear infection for a week, she called her mother at lunch time to tell her she didn’t feel well.
“I thought she had mono[nucleosis],” said her mother, Stephanie Harris, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade English at the Mill Pond School in Hodgdon.
But after undergoing blood tests at Katahdin Valley Health Center in Patten, it was revealed that Addie had leukemia.
“Dr. Suzanne Nelson called me that evening and asked me to come into her office. She said she needed to talk to me. I said, ‘Is this is scary as I think it is?’ She said it was,” said Harris. “When we got there and she told us, we all cried.”
Woods’ blood had been sent to Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center.
On Nov. 23, they packed their bags and headed to EMMC for more tests.
More tests validated the original diagnosis, and Woods spent the next 24 days at EMMC undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatments and a painful bone marrow transplant.
She returned home on Dec. 19 but continues to make weekly visits to the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer for further chemotherapy treatments.
Stephanie Harris said they are hoping it will be reduced to one trip every 10 days in the near future.
Stephanie Harris said her daughter has eight challenging months ahead of her. But she has been told by doctors the cancer is curable, and if all goes well, “she should feel normal again after eight months.”
Woods intends to return to the basketball court next season.
One of the the important components in Addie’s recovery has been the outpouring of support.
And it has been far-reaching.
“We live in such a caring community that I figured people here would be supportive. But the support from other parts of the state has been humbling. All the support has been overwhelming,” said Harris, who has taken a leave from work to stay with her daughter.
“I get teary-eyed every time I talk about [the support],” said Hodgdon High School principal Mary Harbison. “Everybody has been so generous and so thoughtful.”
Harbison said the bus driver for the Shead High School girls team from Eastport hand-made a pen for Addie.
The Hodgdon-area community raised more than $7,800 for her, according to Hodgdon athletic director Wayne Quint.
Other schools have donated anywhere from $300 to $2,700 or showered Addie with gifts.
“Everybody we have played has had something for Addie,” said Quint.
More than $12,000 has been raised so far.
Opposing players have worn orange socks or ribbons to support leukemia awareness.
Tony Staffiere, first-year basketball coach at Thorndike’s Mount View High School, and his Mustangs have donated an entire week of ticket and concession sales to the #AllinForAddie campaign.
The coaches and players have put together a package for Addie and her family along with several thoughtful and inspirational videos.
“And Phil Nadeau, who owns Spanky’s Pizza in Unity, is pledging $5 for every 16-inch cheese pizza solid between last Sunday and this coming Sunday. We heard Addie liked cheese pizza,” said Staffiere. “The pizza is on sale this week for $9.99.
“Our players have done a wonderful job creating some short, inspirational videos for her,” said Staffiere.
“We are taking the opportunity to not only raise cancer awareness but also put this in the consciousness of the kids because this is someone their age undergoing such a life-changing event. It goes beyond school and basketball,” he said.
Staffiere noted that assistant coach Jennifer Conrad spearheaded the community outreach to raise awareness of Addie’s plight.
Andrea Nightingale, the school secretary at Hodgdon High, said the support has been “mind blowing” and that it shows you how close-knit the basketball community is in the state.
“It’s amazing. We even had a Class A school contact us,” said Nightingale.
Stephanie Harris said her daughter has been going through a rough patch. She has been experiencing fatigue and nausea.
But they are hoping as they eventually lower the doses of chemotherapy, she will feel better.
Harris said Addie’s older brother, Blake, has been a “rock” through this difficult ordeal.
Blake is a senior on the boys basketball team.
“When Addie is really hurting, she wants to see Blake,” said Stephanie, whose daughter also plays on the softball team.
Younger sister Aidynn makes her older sister laugh, according to Stephanie.
“She’s our comedian,” said Harris.
Harris said her daughter is handling the situation well.
“She is a laid-back, kind-hearted person who wants everyone to be happy,” said Harris. “She gets upset when other people are upset.
“At times, she has handled this better than I have. It’s so hard to watch your child go through something like this. You feel so helpless. You can’t do anything. I just try to keep her comfortable, try to help her feel better and lift her spirits,” said Harris, whose daughter has received a ton of get-well cards.
“I’ve heard from my former teachers and people haven’t heard from in a long time,” said Harris. “I’m surprised by how many people have reached out to her.”
And she firmly believes it is making a difference in her daughter’s recovery.
“We’re just taking it one step at a time, day by day. We know we’re going to get through it,” Harris said.