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Beating two opponents

Maddy Lang battles against leukemia, teams

By Casey Krautkramer

Maddy Lang, an eighth grader at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Marathon, both battles on the basketball court and in her life outside the sport.

She gingerly runs down the basketball court because her body is weak from fighting cancer. Yet during her team’s games, she aggressively battles with opponents for loose balls on the floor. Maddy is a fighter on the basketball court and against leukemia.

Maddy was too ill from her chemotherapy treatment to play in her team’s home game against Athens on Jan. 14, but two days later, she felt well enough to play in St. Mary’s home game against Immanuel Lutheran from Wisconsin Rapids. Maddy missed the only shot she attempted in the first half, but she persevered by making her first basket of the season later in the game to help the Eagles achieve a come-from-behind win against the Cougars.

Maddy gets support from her family during his double battle. Her mother, LeAnn, is her basketball team’s assistant coach and her father, Rod, operated the scoreboard during St. Mary’s win against Immanuel Lutheran.

“She’s definitely beating her battle against cancer, that’s for sure, so it’s nice to see her back playing in a basketball game,” LeAnn said. “She is enjoying playing basketball and doing the best she can on the court to help her team win. She is a pretty brave girl to be receiving chemotherapy and still be playing basketball.”

The Langs have also received community support. Vehicles parked on the street in front of St. Mary’s Catholic School contain sticker decals on the back windows, in support of Maddy’s fight against cancer. The Lang family has received countless donations from Marathon area civic groups and individuals.

Maddy is a shy 13-year-old who doesn’t say much, and she’s not the type of girl to seek attention from other people during her fight against cancer. She does, however, appreciate all the support area people have provided during her fight against cancer.

“They have been very supportive of me and they’ve been praying for me,” Maddy said after her basketball game last Thursday.

Suzie Lang, the St. Mary’s Catholic School secretary, is challenging community members to donate a minimum of $2000 by the end of this month to Maddy’s parents to help them pay for her medical bills. If the donation goal is met, Suzie Lang has promised to have the hair shaved off her head in front of the entire school’s students and staff members.

Maddy missed her entire eighth grade volleyball season in fall because she was too sick from her chemotherapy treatments to compete with her teammates on the court. Scott Baumann is Maddy’s head girl’s basketball coach. He admitted he “almost had tears” in his eyes when he was able to get Maddy her first few minutes of playing time this season during a Saturday morning game in December.

“She’s fighting two battles; she is helping our basketball team with one and we are helping her with the other one,” Baumann said. “If our team wins or loses, what’s most important is getting Maddy back on the basketball court so she can enjoy playing with her teammates.”

Tera Fieri, a Marathon Venture Academy science teacher, created two lightweight caps made out of Marathon sports t-shirts for Maddy to rotate wearing during her basketball games so she can protect her bald head.

Battle begins

Maddy Lang was diagnosed on June 25, 2019, with acute B-cell lymphocytic leukemia. She is seven months into the 2-1/2 years her doctor is requiring her to receive weekly chemotherapy treatments to ensure all cancer cells are completely out of her body. LeAnn said last Thursday Maddy is doing so well that she could soon begin only receiving chemotherapy treatments every other week.

“The leukemia she has is the easiest one to beat, which is a great thing; not that any leukemia is good but this is the better one to have because it’s the most common in children,” LeAnn said. “Her last two bone marrow biopsies came back negative for leukemia, but we need to continue her chemotherapy treatments because there could still be hidden cancer cells in strange spots in her body. She gets a spinal tap every month at Marshfield Medical Center.”

Joseph Koch, St. Mary’s Catholic School principal, said last Thursday while sitting on the gym bleachers during Maddy’s basketball game that Rod and LeAnn were very open with the school about their daughter’s leukemia.

“Maddy and her parents were like, ‘don’t feel sorry for us but let’s just beat this cancer,’” he said. “She’s not the type of person who wants all the attention; she wants to have as normal of an eighth grade as possible.”

Koch said St. Mary’s eighth grade students receive a special treat of being able to play sports in the school gym during recess after lunch, where younger students are required to play outside. He said in December it was nice to see Maddy begin playing with her classmates in the gym during recess.

“I know Maddy was disappointed she missed her volleyball season but we have the Brains and Brawn Tournament in La Crosse this Saturday, Jan. 25,” he said. “Her being able to participate in Brains and Brawns was in question at the beginning of the school year, so it’s neat she’ll now be able to compete in the tourna- ment.” He said cancer hits home for a lot of people, which is why he thinks there’s been an outpouring of support for Maddy during her battle against leukemia.

“There’s a lot of people who are looking out for her,” Koch said. “So many families have been affected by cancer, so it’s something that affects a lot of people. Even for people who aren’t associated with St. Mary’s Catholic School or don’t know Maddy personally, just about everybody I think knows somebody with cancer.”