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Remaining Positive in the Face of a Rare Bone Cancer

Amanda Morong, a Yorkville High School teacher, had to put her wedding plans on hold to fight a cancer diagnosis.

Amanda Morong was planning the summer wedding of her dreams when everything came to a screeching halt: She was diagnosed with ewings sarcoma, a relatively rare bone cancer.

Despite this turn of events, her family said Morong, 25, remains positive and focused on her students at Yorkville High School.

September 2011, Morong went to the doctor with pain in her hip, which she thought was from running. She was diagnosed and treated for a stress fracture. Eventually she sought a second opinion from a bone specialist. He suggested a biopsy, which found the cancer in March.

“I didn’t know what to make of it. I read a quote, I believe it was Lance Armstrong, and I adapted it to fit me since I play volleyball: ‘You have to be more aggressive than you are in the courts.’ This is always in the back of my head,” Morong said.

Morong said the cancer made her put a lot of things on hold but that fighting cancer has solidified her relationship with her fiancé, Derek Jarosz.

“This solidifies that if he and I can get through this, we can get through anything," she said. "We do truly love each other. Our wedding will be much more than just a celebration for getting married.”

Morong teaches P.E. and Health at Yorkville High School and coaches volleyball. This is her third year at the school.

“The district has been super-awesome and accommodating,” she said. “They have worked with my changing schedule and been so patient. I’m just trying to figure it all out and taking the initiative because I want to be there. I absolutely love teaching and want to be there. The school is like a second family to me."

Morong said her students hosted a small fundraiser when she was first diagnosed.

“The students are so responsive," she said. "They are always giving me hugs. The parents have told me that I’m an inspiration to the kids that you can’t just stop your life, that you have to keep going and that it’s a great lesson for the students to understand. That’s really great to hear.”

After enduring chemo to shrink the tumor, Morong underwent surgery to remove six inches of her femur in July. Donor bone was inserted in its place. Doctors tell her she will be able to run again but for now she uses crutches while waiting for the bone to fuse. She hopes to be off her crutches by December.

Though she was deemed cancer-free in July, Morong continues chemo treatments because of the surgery. Every other week, she is an inpatient for three to five days. In the off weeks, she usually receives outpatient treatment one day for a few hours. Her last chemo treatment is scheduled for Dec. 31.

On Sept. 30, family organized a fundraiser for Morong to assist with all her medical expenses.

Organizer Dawne Morong, Amanda Morong’s aunt, said 250 to 300 people attended the fundraiser. Though she is keeping the total donations confidential, she said people were extremely generous.

“It surpassed what anyone had hoped for," Dawne Morong said. "In this economy to witness such generosity was just wonderful. People dug deeply into their pockets and honestly it surprised everyone, when we realized the magnitude of help this would provide Amanda.”

Morong’s cousin’s band, The Rails, performed the fundraiser for free. The Wood Dale VFW donated use of their hall along with a raffle prize and monetary donation. Local businesses provided many raffle and silent auction items, Dawne Morong said.

Morong said the fundraiser was wonderful.

“I thought it would be much smaller," she said. "It just blew up! There were so many people there to support me and say they were praying for me. It gave me a comforting feeling that I can get through this.”

To others facing a cancer diagnosis, Morong’s advice is: “Take a deep breath. Take it one day at a time. Figure out your routine and you’ll figure out a way to beat it.”

Morong lives in Bartlett with her parents. Fiancé Derek Jarosz is a sales rep for Southern Wine Spirits and lives in Chicago.

The new wedding date is June 8, 2013. Morong plans to use some of the fundraiser money to buy herself a nice wig for her wedding.

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