Long On Heart, She's Made Grade Despite Brain Cancer

Harford Graduates 1991/the Best And The Brightest

May 26, 1991|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Staff writer

I carry a torch for you

It shines through the fog

A beacon to help you through

The triumph and

Over the roughplaces

The amber shall burn

Even when I'm not around

Singing into the wind

With arms open wide

You will always have a place

Come Home

-- Amy Long, "Last Will and Testament," an assignment for her creative writing class, C. Milton Wright High School.


Amy Long is the kind of student her teachers say they don't see often enough.

At 17, Amy is a quiet, but determined girl with largebrown eyes, tall and poised. An honor student with a 3.4 grade-pointaverage, she expresses herself through poetry and fiction, sings in the chorus, teaches German to elementary school children, and got thelead in a school play.

But Amy never made it to the stage. Just shortly after entering her junior year and landing the lead part of Linda in "Runaways," her activities came to an abrupt halt.

Amy had always been healthy. With little warning she received the news on Oct. 5, 1989: her recent bouts with blurred vision, declining handwriting and slight staggering were caused by brain cancer. Five days later,instead of rehearsing for the play, Amy was in the operating room atJohns Hopkins Hospital where the malignant tumor was removed.

That was a year and a half ago. Doctors told Amy at her last examinationthat her health report was "pristine." Still, the road to recovery had been torturous, but she persevered.

On June 6, her determination will be rewarded when she receives her diploma as part of the graduating Class of '91 at C. Milton Wright High School.

Looking back on the past 18 months, Amy admits it sometimes took all the energy shecould muster just to go on. "There were tears," she remembered, "lots of tears and questions like 'Why me?' "

Even when she was most discouraged, the thought of falling behind in her Certificate of Meritcourses and not graduating with her class never occurred to her. "I made a promise to myself not to let the illness upset my schooling," said Amy.

Throughout her more than two-month absence from the classroom she studied with a tutor and kept her grade-point average from slipping.

Amy returned to school in January 1990 and continued herintense course schedule -- creative writing, government, German, chemistry, chorus, advanced-placement English. The only class she dropped was geometry. "Math just isn't my forte," she said, laughing. She took the course again in her senior year.

Getting through her lessons and homework takes much longer now, Amy said, especially since shehas to work with a recorder. "Since the surgery I have lost a lot ofcontrol with my right arm," she said. "I've taught myself to write with my left hand, but it is slow."

Pat May, her creative writing teacher, said "Amy is a hard-working young woman, extremely gifted andtalented."

Like most students, said May, Amy sometimes suffers from burnout and "senior-itis," but she has stamina and the ability to pick herself up and continue. "Her writing often reflects her philosophy and she has drawn from her experiences and pain," said May. "She's just really a neat kid. We all have learned a lot from her, like sticking to something and doing it well despite obstacles."

Physically, Amy appears almost untouched by her illness. At one point, she had lost all of her long, brown hair, but it has grown back to chin-length. Amy suffers a slight paralysis in the right side of her face andshe walks a little slower than she used to. She has to wear glasses when she drives.

But you hardly notice these things when her smileilluminates her face and her brown eyes sparkle as she talks of her poetry or singing in the school chorus.

Unfortunately, Amy has discovered physical disabilities, however slight, can be a hindrance in everyday life.

"We can't prove it, but we know it's so when Amy comes home from applying for a job and is turned down again," said her mother, Doris Long. "They seem to overlook that she's a full-functioning person."

Amy confesses she's disappointed when that happens, but she has not given up.

That's what is so admirable about her, said Paula Roberty, Amy's chorus teacher. "She never complains or makesexcuses, she has a positive attitude and remarkable ability to persevere," Roberty said.

Amy looks forward to graduation and singing with the choir one last time. And, this fall she will attend Loch Haven University, in Pennsylvania, majoring in German. "My pie in the skyis to become a translator for the government or the U.N.," she said.

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