Reynoldsburg News

Battling cancer

After misdiagnoses, RHS grad winning fight

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A Reynoldsburg High School graduate is winning her battle against cancer, but the fight has been a tough one for a girl who loves to dance.

Corinne Atwood, 19, is a 2012 RHS graduate who began dance classes at age 3 and continued dancing for 15 years. She's also been studying and performing on cello for eight years. She soon will be a sophomore at the University of Toledo.

What began in March with pain in her left hip and kidney was misdiagnosed as a virus, then sciatica. The hip pain continued and stabbing pains in her stomach sent her to the emergency room in June, where she was told they were gas pains from the sciatica medication.

A family doctor finally felt a lump in the left side of Corinne's abdomen that was diagnosed as cancer.

After tests at the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University and at the Stefanie Spielman Cancer Center in Columbus in July, Atwood was told she had a rare form of cancer called desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT).

She said the cancer was stage 4.

"The scans showed the cancer on almost every organ and in my lungs and lymph system," she said.

Because that form of the disease is a pediatric cancer, Atwood saw a specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital who set her up with an aggressive chemotherapy regimen.

The specialist also suggested she seek a second opinion, so she and her mother traveled to the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

"The doctors there told us of an intense surgery called Hipec -- which has a three-month recovery -- that I could have once the cancer was reduced to my organs only," Atwood said.

A few weeks after she returned from Texas, though, the specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital told her the doctors at M. D. Anderson had retested a previous biopsy and determined she had been misdiagnosed.

"I, in fact, had nephroblastoma, or Wilms tumor," she said. "This new diagnosis was good news, as Wilms tumor is much less rare and easier to treat. We also learned that I have been responding well to chemo and the cancer is almost totally out of my lungs and lymph system."

A complication set in though -- a blood clot near her heart. Atwood is currently on blood thinners to dissolve the clot.

Her mother, Cathi Maxwell-Atwood, said she was happy to hear Corinne's cancer was a type that was easier to treat.

"Nephroblastoma responds to chemotherapy while DSRCT is not as responsive," she said. "It gave me so much more hope and a positive outlook. Corinne will meet with a surgery team this week and have scans to make sure the blood clot has been dissolved and that she can come off the blood thinners.

"Surgery to remove her left kidney is scheduled for Sept. 30, if the scans come back favorably."

After the kidney surgery, Atwood will undergo more chemotherapy and radiation.

"The fight against cancer is really tough, but the support from my family, friends and the community has been beyond inspirational for me," she said.

"I want to tell my family and friends thank you and that I am so grateful I don't have to go through this alone."

Atwood's friends and family not only rallied around her, but organized and participated in fundraisers to help pay the hospital bills. Joyce Zarcone, owner of J.A.Z. Dance & More in Reynoldsburg, said Cathi Maxwell-Atwood takes Zumba classes there and Corinne is a former student.

"Joyce raised a little over $1,000 and my sister, Melissa Hare, had another Zumbathon in Marysville, which raised over $800," Maxwell-Atwood said. "We are proud to be connected with J.A.Z. Dance and More and all the wonderful and supportive people who continue to hold us in thought and prayer."

Hare is a dance teacher at In-Step Dance Studio in Marysville.

People who would like to contribute to Atwood's medical expenses may visit youcaring.com/corinneatwood and follow her fight on Facebook at "Help Corinne Beat Cancer."

Atwood's sister, Allison, wrote on that Facebook page: "Corinne is strong-willed, but soft-spoken, intelligent and thoughtful. She's always happy to brighten your day even if she's having a bad one.

"She loves to laugh and will get trapped in hilarious fits of laughter. We're so close. We tell each other everything ... I have the most amazing sister in the world. She's been my best friend for 19 years and she's going to kick cancer's butt!"

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