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The fight back to the field: Jenkintown’s Ferruzzi made it back to lacrosse team after recovering from leukemia

Thursday, 12th August 2010

Categories Features, Girl's/Women's, High School  

By Natasha Wetten, Posted 8/12/10

It’s spring. For freshman athletes, anticipation is in the air as they gear for their first high school playing experience.

So many things are running through their minds: will I make varsity? What position will I play? How can I make myself stand out?

Jenkintown's Camille Ferruzzi (7) joined her senior teammates (l to r) Carolyn Smith (19), Jill Morris (18), Caroline Drury (22), Audrey Asher (23) on the field this year after recovering from acute myeloid leukemia

Camille Ferruzzi, a freshman in 2007 for the Jenkintown lacrosse team, asked herself the same things. And she quickly found the answers.

Ferruzzi made an immediate impression and became a varsity starter, rousing high expectations in her coaches. Ferruzzi, starting out as a low attack, dominated the field with her agility and focus. She ended the season confidently, anxious to build her skills further during the next three years of her high school career.

However, her goal of blossoming as a player was put on hold the following fall. On November 7, 2007, Ferruzzi was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

AML is a cancer that starts inside bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells. The symptoms of AML are caused by replacement of normal bone marrow with leukemic cells, and they include fatigue, easy bruising and shortness of breath.

“I had a lot of bruises that were unexplainable and weren’t going away,” explained the now 18-year-old. “I had terrible stomach pains too, so I went to get it all checked out.

“I remember just sitting there and thinking, ‘I don’t have time for this,’” Ferruzzi recalled. “I’m always on the go,” she added jokingly, referring to her participation in lacrosse, cross country and basketball.

Then a sophomore, Ferruzzi immediately began chemotherapy. Her long journey ended joyously this year when she returned to the lacrosse field as a regular player for Jenkintown and graduated as a member of the Honor Roll and the National Honor Society.

But her first year of treatment as a cancer patient was strenuous, as she endured regular chemo treatments at the hospital.

“They prepared me for the worst,” she said of her doctors. “They never told me I was going to be fine, just to keep a positive attitude.”

And that she did. Ferruzzi’s struggle was made easier by her courageous attitude and bright outlook. “I think I had a really good sense of humor about it,” she explained. “I just laughed about everything that happened because if you don’t laugh, then you are just miserable.”

Along with laughter, Camille also could take her mind off of things by continuing one of her favorite hobbies while in the hospital: art. “[Art] was a positive outlet for Camille,” said her mother, Joyce Ferruzzi. “Her pieces really tell the story of her tough journey; they are really quite moving.”

Despite her ever enduring optimism, there were times when Camille felt helpless. However her mother never let her stay that way for long.

“She was always there,” said Camille. “Sometimes I hated the entire world, and she stuck by me and never gave up hope.”

Joyce Ferruzzi lived in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for a vast majority of her daughter’s time there. She would not only be there to pick Camille up, but to keep her company and be someone to laugh with.

“There were many days and nights when few words were spoken, but all I had to do was look into her eyes and know she was fighting the fight,” Joyce said.

After many months of dealing with AML, Ferruzzi was in need of, and ready for, a bone marrow transplant. Her entire family was tested to find a matching donor. The results showed that Joyce Ferruzzi was a perfect match.

Now, she was not only going to provide her daughter with emotional support, but she was going to be able to provide her with healthy bone marrow to keep save her life.

In May of 2008, during a six-hour procedure, Joyce’s bone marrow was transported from her to Camille.

“At first I didn’t really feel a difference,” said Camille. “I remember being asleep and the doctors used a central line in my chest to transport the cells. My cells and my mom’s cells started fighting and during the 2 weeks after the procedure I lost 40 pounds.”

The bone marrow transplant was extremely hard on Ferruzzi’s body. “I had to re-learn to walk,” she said.

This was just another obstacle to overcome.

During her fight, Ferruzzi has remained optimistic despite remarkable pain and adversity.

“The human spirit is so important to fighting the fight and never giving up hope,” said Joyce Ferruzzi. “Camille is an inspiration.”

Ferruzzi left the hospital and came home in October of 2008 and continued to slowly recover. She worked on regaining her strength and, although she was homeschooled for the rest of her junior year and couldn’t return to lacrosse in the spring of 2009, she was determined to get back to the field for her senior year.

“Camille has always been goal oriented, stubborn and extremely focused,” said her mother. “As each new obstacle presented itself she dug deep within her self and stayed the course to make it through to the next hurdle toward recovery.”

In the winter of 2009, Ferruzzi pushed herself to start running again. Because of her grueling treatment, she lost over 45 pounds in muscle mass and it was difficult for her to lift weights and gain back her strength, but she continued to work hard.

When spring rolled around, Camille was back where she had been three years before: the lacrosse field. Although all of her strength was not built back up to where it had been before, she ended up scoring 11 goals and having 4 assists.

“Camille is an amazing person. She overcame lots of obstacles and has so much courage and determination,” said Jeanie Ewer, Camille’s coach at Jenkintown. “She is truly an inspiration to me, our team and to the Jenkintown community.”

Ferruzzi recently attended her orientation at Temple University, where she will be majoring in advertising this fall. “I didn’t want to go very far away and I really like being in the city,” she said about her choice to attend Temple.

She is also interested in playing club lacrosse during college and continuing to build her strength back up.

“I feel like I’m pretty much back to normal,” Ferruzzi noted. “I know my body isn’t back to where it was, but my personality and my mind are all back where they were.”

The Ferruzzi family has started an “angel” network for kids in fighting cancer at CHOP. “We send the kids cards, small gifts, gift cards from their “special angel,” hoping to bring some smiles to their day,” said Joyce.

The Ferruzzi family will also running in the Four Seasons Parkway Run on Sept. 26 benefit the cancer center at CHOP. “Three years ago Camille was too ill to participate, so I walked the event,” said Joyce. “Last year Camille and our family and friends participated and we walked.”

“This year, I am running the event with Camille!”

Camille received the Bicentennial Athletic League Most Courageous Award this past spring. She has been in remission for over a year and is happy to be back living her life to the fullest again.

“How lucky am I to have had Camille in my life,” said Joyce Ferruzzi. “She continues to be my inspiration.”



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