By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Friday was a good day for Candace Moore. After watching her Hood Huskies trample the West Running Brook Bears on the basketball court, Candace feasted on victory Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish with her teammates in the bleachers, cheering on the boys' team -- and holding up handmade signs for their favorites -- which, in middle school lingo, means "hottest."
Once home, she was hungry for PB&Js. She grabbed a stack of bread and made four sandwiches -- two for her, and two for her twin sister, Corina. Then she pulled off her hat and tossed it aside, exposing the wisps of hair that haven't given up their will to grow on her mostly barren scalp. She scooped up her new Christmas kitten, Layla, and climbed on top of her bunk bed, next to her sister, and her matching kitten, Marshmallow, for movie night.
It was a good day, considering how many days Candace has lost since September to the ravages of chemotherapy. Normally, Candace would have been in the middle of the action Friday, playing point guard and complementing her twin sister's moves on the court as one half of the notorious "Twins," who are just about impossible to beat, when they work together.
But cancer is interfering. It's caused a personal foul. It's having its way with Candace. Some days her 13-year-old athletic body hardly has the will to sit upright, or keep food down. "Nothing has been normal for a while," said Susan Mandrey, who is doing her best to keep life for her daughters as normal as possible.
In September, Candace was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that attacks healthy muscle with fast-growing tumors. Following a 12-hour surgery in October to remove a five-inch tumor from her abdominal area, Candace has since undergone weekly chemotherapy treatments at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Medical Center. Last week, after nearly two months of clean test results, doctors discovered a new growth. On Tuesday, Candace will return to Dartmouth for more surgery, including the removal of a lymph node that has also succumbed to the fast-growing cancer cells.
"I tell her this is just a small bump in the road," said Mandrey. "Until last week, everything was looking good. This is a set back, but I know it's just temporary. She's young, and she's strong."
Cancer was the last thing Mandrey expected after taking her daughter for a check up in August. Since their birth, the twins have been a force to be reckoned with -- their uncanny "twin thing" quickly became an asset to them as they teamed up for recreational basketball and joined Little League.
"These are my trophies and medals, and these are Candace's," said Corina, waving her hand across an indiscernable divide of awards and ribbons, mostly trophies topped with golden baseball players in the shape of boys. As girls excelling in boy territory on the baseball diamond, their mother strongly encouraged them to give up Little League last spring to focus their energy on girls' sports.
"There were no opportunities for them in baseball, after a certain point. They are playing softball now, and as always, basketball," Mandrey said.
Candace admits that her heart still belongs to baseball, but it hasn't stopped her and her sister from dominating on the basketball court. They will be heading to Pinkerton Academy in the fall, to the delight of Astros coach John Barry. Candace's situation came to his attention while scouting a game at Hood.
"I was telling him about Candace, and he was the one who had the idea to make Pinkerton's annual basketball clinic a benefit for her this year," said Hood coach Danielle Paradis. She has coached Candace and Corina in both basketball and softball since they landed at Hood, and said it has been an incredible experience for her to watch how they work so seamlessly together.
"Whether on the field or on the court, it's like they know exactly what the other is doing and thinking. All one has to do is get the ball to the other, and things happen," said Paradis. In her 10 years of coaching at Hood, this is the first time one of her players has been sidelined by cancer.
"Hoops for Candace" is Jan. 17 at the Pinkerton Academy Field House from 1 to 5 p.m. for girls in grades one through eight. Proceeds will go to a fund set up in Candace's name. It is one of four upcoming fund-raisers sponsored jointly by the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Derry.
"Most of all I miss my friends -- and my eyebrows," said Candace. "But I love my kitten. And Make-A-Wish asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to go to Aruba and ride horses on the beach. That sounds good right about now," she said.
She is still wrapping her head around the fact that another tumor has grown. "It's like going back to square one," said her mother, who does her best not to cry in front of the girls. "As a single mom, I've always worked a lot of hours, and most weekends the girls would go with their grandmother, because of my schedule. This has forced me to prioritize my life, and to focus on my girls. Nothing is more important to me," Mandrey said.
Register for the Jan. 17 Hoops for Candace Pinkerton Academy Basketball Clinic by contacting John Barry, Pinkerton Academy, 5 Pinkerton St. Derry, 03038. or call 603-437-5200, ext. 4213.
Other fund-raisers to benefit Candace Moore:
- Jan. 31: Applebee's Pancake Breakfast, 8 to 10 a.m., Applebee's Restaurant, 14 Manchester Road. $5 includes pancakes and a beverage.
- Feb. 6: Family Fun Day, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry, 40 East Derry Road, includes basketball shootout, dodge ball, team handball, Foosball, make your own Cure for Candace T-shirt and more. Food and beverages for sale, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $5 donation.
- Feb. 13: Weekend of Love, Derry Coffee Factory, 55 Crystal Ave., live music. 3 to 7 p.m. Cost: Donation.