BROCKWAY — As 9-year-old Paige Doane came to the front of the gymnasium, the children in Brockway Area Elementary School cheered as if she had scored the winning goal in a sports competition.
Paige has a long road ahead of her before any winning baskets will be scored.
The third-grader at Brockway has neurofibromatosis, or NF, a genetic disorder that can cause the body to produce tumors that grow under the skin or along the nerves. Paige was diagnosed at three months old.
Paige’s mother, Shelli Doane, explained that Paige has been receiving treatments her whole life, but this one is different.
“Around Christmas, we went to Children’s Hospital for a biopsy on a tumor growing in the back of her throat,” Doane said. “After the holiday, we got the results back: It’s cancer.”
Paige has a large tumor on her face, which her mother said could not be fully removed, just “de-bulked.” In an ironic twist, the large, visible tumor is not the threat. It is a small tumor only five centimeters long and hidden in the back of Paige’s throat.
Paige’s mother said that Paige is handling the news of the treatments really well.
“She knows it means more treatments,” Doane said. “She’s been getting treatments her whole life.”
Paige will be at Children’s Hospital for six weeks for daily radiation. Then she will need to heal for a month before the doctors are able to perform the surgery to remove the cancerous tumor.
Before Paige’s departure, Brockway Area Elementary School held an assembly to send her off and give her a Bravery Award. The children wore t-shirts with pugs on the front and the words “Prayers for Paige.”
“We wanted the shirts to not only to raise money for the family, but to let Paige know that we are all behind her,” Third Grade Teacher Mary Beth Yahner said. “Paige loves pugs, and the shirts are gold — the color for childhood cancer.”
The response to the t-shirts was so great that the planned assembly to honor Paige had to be moved from Monday to Wednesday so Dan’s Pro Shop could meet the demand. Advanced Disposal also sponsored the shirts.
Paige’s family said they were grateful for the support they received from the school district — specifically mentioning Yahner, school nurse Lesley Martini, and school counselor Kristen Sholes. The outpouring of support prompted the family to go set up an account for Paige.
“We have an account in Paige’s name set up at S&T Bank in Brockway,” Doane said. “Anyone who wants to donate can do it through the bank.”
Martini said the account at the bank was something the community wanted.
“A lot of parents and community members have been asking if they can donate to the Doane family through an account, instead of sending it to school,” Martini said. “The bank is aware of the purpose of the account.”
Doane said she and Paige are thankful for the outpouring of support from the community.
Superintendent Jeff Vizza said the community’s love for Paige made him extra proud to be a Brockway Rover.
“It is remarkable to see an entire school district and community pull together for one of their very own,” Vizza said in an email to the school district. “Paige is a tremendous gift and a pillar of inspiration for all of us. She pulled off the ultimate role reversal. With her courage, strength, and positive attitude, she became the perfect teacher and we were the students learning from her resilience.”