Bill Penrod to throw out first ball – again
The spring and summer of 1994 were difficult times for young Bill Penrod. He knew he wasn’t feeling well, that was why so much time was being spent around doctors and hospitals.
So baseball was certainly no big deal when he stood at Lampe Park in Gardnerville to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the U.S. Open amateur tournament that August. The 4-year-old stood on the first base line, accepted a baseball that was handed to him, turned his head and hurriedly rolled it toward the mound.
Friday, sometime before 7:30 p.m., young Penrod will be back at Lampe Park. He’s 8 now and has even been working on his overhand delivery to once again throw out the first pitch for the U.S. Open, a 16-team event that will continue through Aug. 16 at Lampe Park.
n Good news. But the really good news is he began third grade this week at Pinon Hills Elementary School – and there are no signs of the cancer that once invaded his body.
He’s looking forward to getting out on the big field and throwing a strike.
“I told him he can’t bowl it out this time,” mom Kelly Dresser-LeCount said. “Last time, he was so sick … he was in between chemo treatments.”
Persistent stomach pain led to the discovery of Burkitt’s Lymphoma in February, 1994, only a few days before his fourth birthday, and emergency surgery at Carson-Tahoe Hospital that resulted in the removal of a tumor that weighed approximately two pounds, according to Dresser-LeCount.
“The operation lasted five, six hours,” she recalled. “When Dr. (Kent) Skogerson showed me the tumor, it was the size of his hand … and he has big hands.”
The operation was followed by a series of trips to Oakland – three times a month – for chemotherapy treatment. The experience was one Dresser-LeCount will always remember.
“The nurses who work oncology are angels on earth,” she said. “They’re amazing. They deal with children they know are coming in but may never go back out, but they’re there, wholeheartedly, with upbeat attitudes all the time.”
n Silver lining. There was a silver lining in Bill’s cloud.
“They said as long as they catch Burkitt’s in a child under the age of 6, the cure rate is very high,” Dresser said. “They gave him a 98 percent chance that it wouldn’t happen again. But that 2 percent is still shadowy, though we try not to think negatively.”
There was a scare earlier this spring when symptoms returned. Bill went through another operation, but the problem turned out to be caused by a bowel obstruction caused by scar tissue from the original surgery.
“Dr. Skogerson came out within an hour and he broke out a big smile on his face and told us it wasn’t cancer,” Dresser-LeCount recalled. “Of course my husband and I were so relieved. We were hugging the poor doctor and dancing around the room.”
Kelly and Dan LeCount celebrated their second anniversary on Monday (Aug. 3). Bill now has a new sister, 11-year-old Jessica, in addition to a clean bill of health.
n Everyone pitched in. And there are many fond memories of the Carson Valley community that pitched in to help out when times were difficult.
“There are so many people who did so much for us. There’s no way I could ever leave here now,” said Dresser-LeCount, a 1979 Douglas High graduate.
“It was so neat. Between the community and Carson Cancer Advocates, his pharmacy bill was completely taken care of, and that ran into thousands of dollars,” she said. “And the trips to Oakland were paid for by all the fund-raisers here in the Valley, in Carson, Tahoe and Topaz, all the way to Norco (Calif.). We had everything from people donating groceries to little kids with lemonade stands. There was a lot of stuff I was unaware of until after it was all over with, it was really overwhelming.”
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