Run Coach Run - 8/1/08
|One family to another - 5/14/08|
|Clemson fans give to Charleston coach’s daughter - 5/14/08|
|Paws for the Cure - 4/11/08|
|We Play on the Same Team, Just with Different Uniforms - 3/1/08|
|Teen Isn't Letting Cancer Get Her Down - 2/29/08|
|Charleston Coach Balances Daughter's Rare Cancer with Season - 1/31/08|
|The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done - 1/24/08|
Previous Updates from the Pawlowski
Today is Tuesday, Jan 20. As our country has renewed hope with the swearing in of our new President, we have hope that MaryLouise will continue to beat the obstacles before her. With the help of God and the staff here, she continues to fight. Several of our prayers have been answered as shown by her liver and kidneys seeming to have resumed normal function, and the cardiologist saying her heart is in great shape. Thank you, God!
But Friday night she was taken into surgery to address some wounds that occurred early in this saga and it was determined then that she has what is known has "necrotizing faciitis". The wounds are deep and extensive, and she has returned to the OR three times to clean and re-bandage those wounds. Her surgeons- the same great group of guys that removed the cancerous tumor and reconstructed her chest last April- are hopeful that she will recover and heal. When she does, she will be faced with the need for lots of reconstruction and plastic surgery.
Thank you again, as always, for checking on MaryLouise's progress and keeping her in your thoughts and prayers. She is going to need them for a long, long time.
This is Sarah (Mary Louise's mom) giving an update. Today is Wed, Jan. 14. So much has happened in the past several days that this will be long So I'll start by saying THANKS, always, for checking this page and for your continued prayers.
So here goes: Saturday afternoon MaryLouise was taken off the continuous dialysis for a trial of 12 hours. She did great and did not have to re-start that machine!! On the other hand, she started running a fever Saturday night that continues through today so far. Doctors from the Infectious Disease area have been called in to try to figure that one out. Kinda cool, they are going to use nuclear tags on some white blood cells of ML's, re-inject into her blood stream, then scan her tomorrow to see where the white cells went. Sort of like tagging a wild animal then seeing where it goes when let loose. It's a way of locating specific areas of infection if there is one.
Anyway, on Sunday, the respirator was set to just monitor- not assist- ML's breathing. Just for an hour, but again, she did great. In fact, she sort of resisted the air flow which according to the doctors was a good sign. All of that breathing raised her blood pressure and they finally stopped the epinephren drip that was maintaining that pressure. Yaay!!!
Monday's news was that a CT was needed to check for possible areas of infection. Sinuses a bit full but antibiotics will help that, and abdomen and pelvis were clear. Yaay and thank you God for that too.
Then Tuesday.....ML was taken OFF the respirator and continues to breathe on her own!!!!! Thank you God again!!
As this whole journey goes, I'm told for every smooth ride there is an equally bumpy one. I know that to be true because every new doctor from a new specialty has a worst case scenario. For every test run I pray for negative results, and to be perfectly honest, so far every prayer has been answered.
Last night ML complained of chest pain. An EKG was done with slight changes, some labs were drawn with elevated enzymes, so now a cardiologist will consult the case too. The infection they are looking so hard for may be at her heart. We'll see.
MaryLouise knows she's been here over two weeks, and struggled with that information yesterday. But she woke up this morning cheerful and funny. Asked for the remote at 9:30 so that she was ready for "Ellen" at 10. That's my girl.
Miracle in the making
MaryLouise is making unbelievable progress, and her doctors agree it is a miracle. Monday and Tuesday brought disheartening news regarding ML's lack of response when the sedatives were turned off, and there were serious questions about damage that may have been done to all organs during the extended time her blood pressure and temp were so unstable. However, Wed morning I returned from walking ML's sister, Christine, to the parking garage and sat down to talk to ML. I told her I was back from that short walk, and that even though I may step out of her room, God has been and will continue to be by her side. Well....she started crying. I ran out to get her nurse ( during shift change of course!) and things have constantly improved since then. This morning, ML's dad asked her to raise first her right hand, then her left, and she DID it! She can nod her head yes or no in response to questions, and even waved hello to one her favorite oncologists, Dr. Vega.
All we can say is THANK YOU, GOD! He has answered prayers every day! Thanks to all of you out there following us and keeping us in your prayers and thoughts! Thanks too for all the diligent care and attention given to ML by the staff here in the ICU!
At this time, MaryLouise remains on continuous dialysis, the respirator, and ONLY 1 medication to sustain her blood pressure! She had gained more than 45 pounds in fluid but has had at least half of that pulled back off. The plan for this weekend is to cut back on the respirator to give her lungs exercise, finish the dialysis and see what her kidneys can do on their own, and protect some skin breakdown from infection.
We were so worried about her mental status if and when she woke up, but truly, prayers were answered! She started her day today by listening to her favorite TV morning show, "Ellen". We have been blessed.
This is Sarah (Mary Louise's mom) giving an update. I know that there are so many of you checking this page often for news, and I'm sorry I have taken so many days to post something new.
Let me start by saying a heartfelt thank you to all that are making a difference in our lives and MaryLouise's status. First is God, responding to the overwhelming numbers of prayers being sent from all over by friends, family and those we don't even know. He is listening and answering in His own time. THANK YOU. We are especially thankful to all of you keeping ML in your thoughts, hearts and prayers. And of course the staff here at MCG-CMC who are working around the clock and putting up with our millions of questions and concerns. They are the BEST.
MaryLouise continues to hang in there. Those of you who have followed these updates know of her love of rollercoasters. Well, she gives the term "rollercoaster ride" a whole new meaning. Her blood pressure is relatively stabalized with meds, she's on continuous dialysis, and respirator. The MDs removed some of the sedation beginning Saturday to try to assess her mental status. So far she is still very sedated and not very responsive...except when they give her a shot. She frowns, tries to say "OWW" and is totally our girl with attitude! But the newest development is acute liver failure, and they will be doing an ultra sound to take a look. We are praying that the failure is due to the sepsis that brought her in, not due to damage done by her chemotherapy.
So, in a nut shell, ML is stable, fighting off multiple organ failure, but still able to frown and resist being moved just like she would be if she was wide awake.
Thank you again for checking on her and passing her story along. Prayer chains work and we know that because she is still here today against most odds.
Hi, this is Sarah again. As many of you may know, MaryLouise was moved to another room and bed in ICU last night(Tues). While being moved ML's heart stopped, but with the quick action of this wonderful staff, ML was given CPR and her heart rate and blood pressure quickly returned to the same values as before the move. We knew that prayer works, and it definitely did at this time.
Today(Wed), ML has stayed stable with the help of 7 different IV medicines to maintain blood pressure, several different antibiotics and blood products, and respirator for breathing. In all, she usually has about 15 different IV medicines going on at one time.
Around 6pm MaryLouise was put on a dialysis machine to help her kidneys. So far she has tolerated this treatment well, and the plan is to run the machine 24 hours a day for a while, keep ML stable, watch and wait.
THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR QUICK RESPONSE TO MY PREVIOUS UPDATE, AND FOR SPREADING THE WORD OF OUR URGENT REQUEST FOR EXTRA PRAYERS. MaryLouise is hanging in there with the help of Our Lord, your concern and prayers, and the awesome efforts of the CMC PICU staff. Thank you.
Hi, this is Sarah, Mary Louise's mom. I have a not so happy update on MaryLouise. I took her in to the clinic yesterday, Monday, as planned. However when we got there first thing that morning, MaryLouise was not feeling well. Once they checked her temp and blood pressure, she took us all by surprise. Her blood pressure had severely dropped so the awesome nurses and doctors there paged the pediatric ICU team. By 9:30 yesterday morning MaryLouise was placed in the ICU here at the Children's Medical Center. It is now 7am Tuesday, December 30. MaryLouise has been sedated and intubated while the team here in ICU try to stabilize her blood pressure, lower her extremely high temp, and do everything they can to pull ML through this. She has what they call Septic Shock and she is in the fight of/for her life. I truly appreciate all of you who have checked in on her this past year. 14 rounds of chemo...wow. I also totally believe in the power of prayer and she REALLY needs all the prayers she can have lifted up. On a brighter note, she and the entire family had a wonderful Christmas.
Thank you all for your well-wishes, prayers, gifts and thoughts of MaryLouise and her family.
Its been a very busy week for Mary-Louise and her family. Currently, she is back in the hospital for her 14th round of chemo treatment and what we all hope will be her last. The plan is, out of the hospital on Sun or Mon and then rest, recover and then wait for Santa to make his visit. Many of you recall that last year Christmas was spent in the Hospital. Following the holidays, they will do full body scans and test will be run to determine where we are and decide the next plan of action. What a year for ML and for all of us. We all know, that there are many brighter days ahead!
This past Monday 15th, we had a very important day as ML made a donation to the MCG Hematology/oncology clinic (Augusta Ga) where she is being treated and gets her counts checked. The clinic is going to purchase a blanket warmer and make some renovations. We want to thank all of you who have reached out to help with all your support throughout this battle. Many of you have contributed to the cause and we thank you so much. The money raised for the hospital donation was a wonderful idea that Mary-Louise had and we are glad that we could pull off something like that. From the Run-Coach-Run, individual contributions and different benefits and functions, we thank you.
From the Pawlowski family to all of you, we want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Will keep you updated and Have a great day.
The Pawlowski Family.
From Left to Right:
John, Jenny, Christine, Mary-Louise, and Sarah
Its really hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner and tis the season for giving. Well, Mary-Louise has a big day planned on Monday Dec 15 as she will be presenting a check in the amount of $10,000 to the Medical College of Georgia Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinic. This is where she is currently being treated and wants to help those who have helped her. The presentation will take place at 4:00 PM and we are all very excited to be part of this. The money raised has come from many different sources and avenues and we want to thank those who have contributed to a worthy cause.
Mary-Louise is doing much better after being treated for a toe infection last week. The cause was not determined, but is doing well and is back home after spending a little time back in the hospital. As it stands, we will wait for her counts go back up and hopefully be ready for her last round of treatment. This will be a great day when we finish this so she can rest and recover from a very long and tough year.
Again, thank you all for the prayers and support that have been sent this way.
Have a Great Day and a Merry Christmas.
The Pawlowski Family
Today Mary-Louise went in to get her counts checked and to see if she was ready for outpatient treatment. The good news is her counts have gone up a little, but not enough to proceed. So we will wait till next week and try again. However she did have to get some blood today and they are monitoring her foot for a possible infection. Lots of hurdles to overcome everyday. She continues to have great spirit and we are still hopeful to be finished with this part of the process next month. Thanks for all the continued support and prayers that have come this way.
On another note, we had a meeting with officials from the hospital about making a donation from the MLP Foundation next month. The plans and details are still being worked out and we will announce them as soon as they become final. Mary-Louise is very excited about this and looking forward to giving back. Next week, the local radio station (Augusta Ga) has asked her to be on the radio and talk about this and other stuff. Will keep you posted on all fronts.
Have a great day and Happy Thanksgiving!
The Pawlowski Family
Mary-Louise Pawlowski displays her
Dad's NYC Marathon Medal
A little frustrating for Mary-Louise this week as her plans to attend the MLP Foundation Benefit www.au4mlp.com in Auburn didn't work out. As the week progressed her counts went down and reduced her immune system. Because of this, she couldn't travel to Auburn and be part of a very special evening on Sat (11/8) night. Many pictures and videos where made, so she will be able to get a feel of how the night went. A special thanks goes out to Forrest and Keith Hammrick for all they did in organizing and putting on a very special and wonderful event. All the sponsors and donors, we cant thank you enough
As we look ahead, ML will have her counts checked again this week and hopefully they will be heading on the way up. Other than that, no other updates to report at this time. Again, thank you all for all your help and support. We appreciate everyone for praying for Ml and her family. Soon , we hope that we can move on and finish this segment of her treatments.
Have a Great Day and Thank You.
The Pawlowski Family
Some really good news on several different fronts for Mary-Louise. First and the most important is that her stay in the hospital is over for the last round of treatment. She was released on Mon Nov 3rd and what a great day. After so many days in the hospital since last December, being allowed to go home is never taken for granted. She continues to have great spirit and determination in beating this and moving on to the next phase of her young childhood. As we progress through this week, her counts will slowly go down and we are hoping that on Sat she will be able to travel to Auburn and be there for the MLP Foundation Benefit www.au4mlpcom
Just wanted update everyone and
we appreciate all the concern, thoughts and prayers that continue to be
sent our way. Earlier this week Mary-Louise had her counts checked and
everything looked good. This was very good news and now we can continue
to move forward with her chemo treatments. It looks like she will check
back into the hospital next Wed 29th for 5 days. The toughest part of
this is the fact that she will not be able to travel to NYC to watch and
support her Dad as he takes on his marathon
www.RunCoachRun.org in attempt to help
support the foundation. The treatment is far more important and we all
understand this. We hope that only 1 more inpatient and 1 more
outpatient treatment will be required. Yes, we are almost there and can
see light at the end of the tunnel! In December the Dr's will do body
scans and test to see where we are. Its been a long year for
Mary-Louise, but she has remained strong and her spirit is great.
Currently she is being home schooled and making good grades, which is no surprise. Thank you to all and please keep her in your thoughts and prayers as we move down the home stretch of treatments. Her sisters Christine and Jenny have been there by her side from day 1 and have provide support, love and of course a few typical moments that we all know about growing up with!!!
Thank you from the Pawlowski family and have a wonderful day.
We are so thankful for the
support and effort people have given her and the family during this most
difficult time. This past Sun Mary-Louise's dad
completed his 8th marathon (www.RunCoachRun.org)
and help raise money that will be donated to the Medical College of
Georgia -Children's Medical Center where ML is currently being treated.
A check will be presented at Christmas time to them and looks like the
proceeds will go to purchasing a Blanket warmer for the patients. This
is a great idea and something that ML wanted to do. All your help will
be greatly appreciated. Both of her sisters are doing very well and
continue to play a major role in all this. Christine and ML even went
to the mall the other day and had a great time just hanging out.
Jenny keeps everybody on their toes and also tries to keep ML in line. We all appreciate everything that has been done and all the prayers that continue to flow our way. We continue to look forward to the day when this phase is over and life will be back on course. Nobody ever said this would be easy, but I think we all have learned that Mary-Louise has what it takes to overcome all this and move forward.
Please check out the links below and thank you from the Pawlowski Family.
(type in Mary-Louise Pawlowski video)
Well, it has been a tough week or so for Mary-Louise, but today she is feeling much better and enjoying her time at home. Her counts continue to improve and her spirit is never wavering as she continues to press on with all the treatments. Looks like Thursday 10/9 she has outpatient scheduled and again on Friday. As we look down the road, we hope that she has only 3 or 4 more sessions to go and then the Dr's will asset where everything stands.
It is truly amazing to watch and be inspired by the will and determination that Mary-Louise has in enduring this battle. She is truly an inspiration to all of us and many people have been there to lend her support. Our family can't begin to thank all of you, just know how much we appreciate everyone standing by her side. If you would like to help Mary-Louise give back, please visit www.RunCoachRun.org and lend a hand to help other children. Thank you for checking in on us, and may you have a great day.
The Pawlowski Family
Well it has been a rough week for Mary-Louise since she returned home from treatments last week. During the course of the week she was not feeling well and by Sunday she had a high fever and had to be admitted back into the Hospital. They did several test and they all came back clean. The Doctors think at this point that some type of infection was causing the fever. It probably has to do with having no immune system at the present time. They have also given her lots of medicine and she is doing much better as of tonight Tues 9/23. We hope they will let her go home soon as she continues to get better.
On another note, Mary-Louise wants to make sure that everyone is
www.RunCoachRun.org and what it means to her in
giving back to those who have helped her. Here is an excerpt from
www.carepages.com " I really want to raise enough money to
get the clinic a blanket warmer with my name on it, because patients
like me get really cold when we are there for a long time getting
treatment". What we are trying to do is help raise money for the
MCG (Medical College of Georgia) Children's Hematology/Oncology Clinic
and give cancer patients a chance. Please reach out and help by
sponsoring Mary-Louise's Dad as he runs the NYC Marathon in a effort to
Again, thank you for all your support and prayers and have a great day.
The Pawlowski Family. www.RunCoachRun.org
Just wanted to give a quick update on where we are with everything. This past Sunday 9/14/08 Mary-Louise was allowed to return home after yet another 5 day stay in the hospital. Her chemo treatments went on as scheduled and now its rest and recovery back in the comforts of her own bed. She maintains her quick wit and spirit throughout all this as she continues to travel down the road of recovery. Currently she is being home schooled and is keeping up with her classmates on all those fun subjects. Her sisters, Christine and Jenny have done a wonderful job of being there for her and of course, keeping her in line (HaHa). If we look down the road, as of now the Dr's are thinking maybe 4 more treatments that consist of both in and out patient stays in the hospital. We continue to press on and need all your support and prayers as they have been instrumental in getting us through the this whole process.
If you would like to help ML give back, please do so by supporting www.RunCoachRun.org in an effort to help fight this disease and give someone else a fighting chance. All proceeds will be presented by Mary-Louise to the Children's Oncology group at the Medical College of Georgia where she is currently undergoing her treatments. The proceeds will be presented at Christmas time this year.
Thanks for all your support.
The Pawlowski Family
Just wanted to continue to update everyone as we are now entering into our 9th month of this battle. Mary-Louise is doing well and continues to have the spirit , strength and power to pull her through each hurdle along the way. There has been many rough segments she has encountered, but with prayers and support from everyone, she continues to get through it. We are currently looking at 5 more chemo treatments that will take us deep into the fall. The results from the scans look good and the plan is to continue into the fall with more in and outpatient treatments. Currently, she is being home schooled and looking forward to getting back into the mainstream and putting this all behind us.
Because so many people have helped, Mary-Louise wants to give back and we are asking for your support. We have begun the process of raising money for the Children's Hospital in Augusta GA where she is currently being treated.
Please go to
www.RunCoachRun.org for all the information. Spread the
word and join the fight.
Again, thank you from the Pawlowski Family.
Mary-Louise just finished up her out-patient treatments on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Everything went well and now she will continue to rest and recover for the next few weeks. The initial results of her body scan came back and they look good. Now the plan
is to continue on into the fall. Thanks again for all your support and prayers.
In other news check out www.RunCoachRun.org and help Mary-Louise give back to those that have helped her.
The Pawlowski Family
Continued thanks for all the support as we move forward through our battle. We are amazed at what has transpired over the last eight months and how this has impacted our lives. Mary-Louise is doing very well and no real changes to report. On Monday July 14 she will check back into the hospital for another stay and chemotherapy treatment. We hope that late this fall we can be finished with this part of the process. Again, thank you all for your prayers and well wishes. Have a great day and we'll update you again after Mary-Louise gets home from the hospital.
With a heart felt thank you!
The Pawlowski Family
Just wanted to give an update on Mary-Louise and where we are in this whole process. Her recovery from the surgery has gone extremely well and the Dr's were very pleased with everything that took place. The other day, she started back on schedule and had 2 days of outpatient chemo treatment. Now its just a lot of rest and recovery on a daily and weekly basis. Looks like this will continue into the fall until they determine where we are. As of now, July 14 is her next scheduled inpatient treatment at the hospital and that's one of those where she will be required to stay overnight for about 4 or 5 days.
We continue to be blessed with all the support and prayers from everyone. There is no doubt that without it, we would not be in the position we are today and this far along on the road to recovery. We thank you all and will keep you update on everything throughout the summer.
The Pawlowski Family
* 5/22/08 *
Just wanted to get the great news out to everyone on Mary-Louise. Yesterday the Dr's called and gave us the results back from the Path lab they had run on the tumor and 3 ribs. The results were very good as they didn't see any other signs in the margins around the tumor area and nothing in the ribs. This is awesome news for us and now we can continue on with the treatments. We have a scheduled meeting Friday May 22 to see exactly what the protocol is and formulate a game plan from here. This is the best news and we appreciate all the thoughts prayers and support that have been sent this way.
The Pawlowski Family
* 5/14/08 *
Mary-Louise was on hand for a special pregame ceremony in which the Clemson Baseball Office presented Mary-Louise and her family with a check for $15,000, money raised since a fund was established in February. An additional $1,600 was raised during Tuesday night's game as well. During pregame batting practice, both teams wore purple t-shirts, as purple is Mary-Louise's favorite color. Fans purchased the same t-shirts during the past few months, as proceeds from the sales went to the Mary-Louise Pawlowski Fund.
View May 13, 2008 Clemson photo gallery
* 5/13/08 * Mary-Louise and her family
planning to be at Clemson game *
Mary-Louise and her family are planning to be in Clemson tonight for the 7:15pm baseball game between the College of Charleston and the Tigers. Clemson will make a pre-game special presentation to the Pawlowski family starting at 6:45pm. Read more==>
* 5/8/08 * All is Well on the "home front"
All is well on the home front for Mary-Louise at this time. She continues to feel better and recover from the surgery on April 30. When we sit back and think about all that has happened since December 13, 2007, it is truly remarkable how far she has come and what one must endure to beat this.
We can't even begin to reach out and let everyone know how much Mary-Louise and her family appreciate all the help, support and prayers that have found their way into our lives. You quickly realize that you can't do it alone and for that, we are so lucky to have people from all walks of life lending support.
What started out as a simple family gesture of showing support for Mary-Louise by wearing the MLP Wristband, has turned into support from people all over the country wearing those Purple swirl bands. It is amazing what people can do and the the "Power of People and Prayers"
Many of you have asked about her sisters and how they have handled this. Well we can assure you that Christine and Jenny have been there by her side every step of the way. They are there to help lift her up and yet there to give her a hard time when she falls out of line. After all, that's what siblings are there for. They are doing well and playing a major role in getting Mary-Louise back on her feet and on the "Road 2 Recovery"
We will continue to update you as we press on through this process. Next step is to wait for the final lab results to come back in and determine our next step.
Thank you all and have a great day.
The Pawlowski Family
5/6/08 Breaking News - Mary-Louise is going
home from the hospital today!
We are so excited! Thank you all for your support, thoughts, and prayers! - The Pawlowski Family
* UPDATE 5/5/08 *
The news continues to be encouraging here as Mary-Louise is making some great strides everyday. Today she had a chest x-ray and her chest tube was removed. She now has walking mobility and no more tubes attached. Hooray and thank goodness cause those were uncomfortable to say the least. Her diet has really picked up as her request for food the last few days has been stellar. Carrabba's yesterday and McAlister's Deli today!!! Not to bad to have those two places on your menu.
We met with the Drs today and depending on how she continues to recover, will determine when she gets to go home. They even mentioned the possibility of today or tomorrow they will release her. Her sisters, Christine and Jenny cant wait to get her back on the home front. We were pleasantly surprised and also excited about this news. In the big picture, the initial reports have come back good and we will continue to wait for further results on the samples taken. Will keep you updated as we move on and continue the battle.
The Pawlowski family is very
thankful to have so many people showing support, love and prayers that
have helped us through this most difficult time. Thank you all and have
a wonderful day.
The Pawlowski Family.
* UPDATE 5/2/08*
Some great news from Augusta, GA! Mary-Louise has been moved out of ICU into another room. The doctors are very pleased with how she has continued to progress. Not really sure how long she will have to stay in the hospital but we will continue to stay the course. Thank you again and we couldn't have made it this far without all the prayers and support from everyone. We will continue to keep everyone updated and take it one step at a time. Thank you from the Pawlowski family.
* UPDATE 5/1/08*
Mary-Louise is doing ok and slowly progressing in the ICU. She has a great outlook on things and has been awake and talking!
* UPDATE 4/30/08*
Just wanted to reach out again and let everyone know that Mary-Louise did very well today (Wed) with her surgery. It was a very long day to say the least as she was in the OR from 11 AM until about 6PM. The Dr's continued to update us every hour and keep us informed during the whole procedure. They were able to remove the tumor and test the area surrounding it and the results were very good. We will just wait and get the results back from the ribs they removed and other common areas. We are currently in ICU until they let her move to another room, which we hope will be in a few days.
MLP did so well today and was willing, able, and ready to get this part of the process over and done with. She and her family are so thankful for all the prayers and support that have been sent this way. Thank you all and will update again tomorrow.
- The Pawlowski Family
MOUNT PLEASANT, SC — John Pawlowski looked out over the baseball
field at Patriots Point on Wednesday afternoon but his mind was 170
The College of Charleston baseball coach has much more to think about these days than his pitching rotation.
Just west of here, in the small town of North Augusta, his 13-year-old daughter, Mary-Louise, is fighting the fight of her life. She was diagnosed with PNET (primitive neuroectodermal tumors), a rare malignancy seen in only two percent of children with cancer.
"The hardest thing I've ever done is tell my 13-year-old daughter she has cancer," Pawlowski said on a sunny afternoon as his players arrived for practice. "When we got the diagnosis right before Christmas, it just floored us.
"Like everybody else who receives a cancer diagnosis, I've had to become an instant expert on the disease. I've read everything there is to read. I've talked to everybody there is to talk to.
"It's frightening. Our whole family is devastated. But we are committed to getting through this and for Mary-Louise to get well."
The only thing that could make a situation like this worse is distance.
Not only is Pawlowski's daughter 2 1/2 hours away, but there is also the matter of divorce. Mary-Louise is the middle of three daughters (Christine 15, Jenny 7). They live in North Augusta with their mother, Sarah, a nurse.
"There have been a lot of long, lonely, late-night and early-morning drives," Pawlowski said. "But her mother and I have put aside any differences we may have because now we all have a common goal."
It all started innocently enough.
Back in November, Mary-Louise came home from volleyball practice complaining of a pain in her side. She thought she had pulled a muscle, but she also developed a cough and cold.
X-rays showed a spot on her lung. They thought it might be pneumonia, but by mid-December the spot had doubled in size. Five days before Christmas, the doctors delivered the diagnosis.
"I just dropped to my knees," Pawlowski said. "Something like this is not scripted in life's playbook."
The color purple
Mary-Louise Pawlowski is a happy-go-lucky eighth grader with a positive outlook on life, even while enduring two rounds of chemotherapy. More chemo and radiation therapy will be necessary to shrink the tumor in her chest before she can have surgery to remove it.
And as hard as this is on her, there's nothing worse than the helplessness that envelops parents when their child is seriously ill.
"It's been like a rollercoaster," said Pawlowski, who opens his ninth season as the Cougars' baseball coach on Feb. 22. "I went through a period of denial at first. Then reality sets in and you wonder why, because this is something that happens to somebody else."
Very quickly, however, the Pawlowski family began seeking knowledge on the subject. They wanted to know everything there is to know about the disease they were fighting.
"I've talked to people at M.D. Anderson, St. Jude, Sloan-Kettering and Roper here in town," Pawlowski said of the hospitals he has contacted. "We want to know everything and do everything that's possible."
In an effort to express his love and hope, Pawlowski wears a plastic wrist-band that says, "We R Praying For MLP." It's purple, Mary-Louise's favorite color.
"I handed them out to our players the first day of practice," Pawlowski said. "It's a small thing, but it's something we can do for her."
Since then he's had to order more wrist-bands as more and more people ask for them. The best way to get one is call the Cougars baseball office at (843) 953-5916.
Days like this
Now that school is back in session and practice has started, Pawlowski must spend more time with his team. He stays in touch with Mary-Louise by cell phone, text messaging and making that long drive as often as he can. Once the baseball season starts in late February, he hopes to set aside a home game in her honor.
Meanwhile, the baseball field is his only relief from this painful reality.
"When I put on the uniform and hat and walk out here in the sunshine, it's a relief for me," he said. "Inside those white lines, I can think about something else for a few hours.
"In fact, this is what it's all about. We're fighting so we all can enjoy days like this in our lives."
Reach Ken Burger at 937-5598 email@example.com.
- Charleston coach balances daughter's rare cancer with
By PETE IACOBELLI - AP Sports Writer - 1/31/08
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. -- College of Charleston coach John Pawlowski
sits in his team's stadium as baseballs are tossed on the field,
thumping against leather gloves.
Pawlowski's mind drifts from bunts and base hits to a hospital room in Georgia where his 13-year-old daughter, Mary-Louise, receives chemotherapy for a rare form of childhood cancer.
"It knocked me to my knees," he said this week.
The coach clearly has a lot on his mind with the Cougars' season only three weeks away.
Mary-Louise followed her father's lead as an athlete, playing volleyball and acquiring her dad's lifelong devotion to baseball. She attended as many Cougar games as she could.
In November, she felt pain in her side and had a cough that would not go away. X-rays showed a small spot on her lungs and doctors treated her for pneumonia.
Medicine and rest eased the problem, but more pictures were taken. The results were a parent's worst fear - Mary-Louise's tumor had doubled in size. The family was told she had a cancer known as primitive neuroectodermal tumors, or PNET.
"I was scared," Pawlowski said. "We had no idea who the enemy was."
The most difficult part, he said, was telling his energetic girl she had a life-threatening condition. Pawlowski said her reaction made things easier.
"She's accepted it and she knows what she's got to do. She's in a battle," Pawlowski said. "There's no doubt in her mind and our family's mind that we're going to beat it."
Mary-Louise undergoes chemotherapy sessions twice a week in Augusta, Ga. She'll eventually need radiation treatments and surgery to remove the affected areas.
Pawlowski makes the two-and-a-half hour drive often. Of course, those trips came during the offseason.
In eight previous years, Pawlowski has built the Cougars into a mid-major baseball power. They've won either the Southern Conference regular season or tournament title the past four years, three times reaching the NCAA tournament. In 2006, Charleston pulled off a feat few mid-majors have, advancing to the NCAA super regionals after winning a regional in Kentucky.
Until last fall, Pawlowski was fully focused on Charleston returning to the NCAAs, something it missed last spring after three consecutive trips.
"When you go through something as life-changing, as life altering as this, no matter what job you have, you have to find out where the balance is," Pawlowski said. "For me personally, when I'm out here on the field and I put on the uniform, it's a release."
"Out here, it's a symbol to me of why we're fighting this battle," Pawlowski said. "Like today, the sun's shining. What a beautiful day, and that's why we're fighting for Mary-Louise, and any people fighting cancer."
Pawlowski, Charleston players, coaches and administrators understand the he may get pulled away at a moment's notice. He spoke with his team soon after his daughter's diagnosis, pledging not to let his family problems distract the Cougars.
He has found universal support. He had a few purple and white wristbands made with "We R Praying 4 MLP" for his family to wear - the Pawlowski's have two other daughters, 15-year-old Christine and 7-year-old Jenny. His players asked for wristbands, too, and the purple and white swirls are easily visible against the team's maroon workout shirts.
The chemotherapy has not been easy Mary-Louise. Sometimes, she's too tired to leave the house. "It's an absolute roller coaster ride. You strap yourself in and hold on," her father says.
As Pawlowski shared his family's story, more people have asked to help or called with best wishes. "We've been absolutely overwhelmed," the coach said.
He's set up a Web site, MLPFoundation.com where people can purchase an MLP wristband, or find out more about Mary-Louise's condition.
Pawlowski, a marathon runner, had raised money for the Cougars program through his long-distance running. His next fundraiser will be for new foundation. The plan is for Mary-Louise to pick a deserving charity or cancer center to donate the proceeds.
"This is a chapter that's being written in my life, my daughter's life, my family's life that we don't know what's going to be written next," he said. "I don't know what tomorrow's going to bring. But I'm not afraid anymore."
On any given day you may find Mary-Louise Pawlowski sitting on her
couch, watching a DVD of “The Gilmore Girls,” fretting that her
big sister may be eating her homemade fries before delivering them from a generous neighbor.
This attractive, outspoken 13-year-old who enjoys dance and
volleyball, has a real desire to play tennis and loves riding roller
coasters, identifies herself as a “very social person” — like most girls her age.
But right now Mary-Louise, a professed shopper and inveterate text-
messager, is not exactly the typical teen. She’s having to limit her
social life, because she is battling cancer.
It all began in November with some upper back pain. “It hurt to
move,” said Mary-Louise, an honor student at North Augusta Middle
Her mom, Sarah Ann, who is a nurse by training, listened but
couldn’t hear anything unusual, so they went to the doctor who
ordered an X-ray.
It showed a small spot, but everyone thought it was pneumonia.
Then in December she remembers still having the pain at the NAMS
She had another X-ray. This one was different.
The pediatrician called them back to the hospital immediately and
said there was not just fluid but a mass in Mary-Louise’s right lung.
She was admitted and thus began the 13-year-old’s introduction to
the medical world and all that entails — first a CT scan of her
chest and abdomen to get a clearer picture of the tumor, then a chest
tube to drain off the fluid (of which there was a great deal, about a
liter), biopsies, another chest tube ...
Finally about a week later Mary-Louise received her diagnosis, along
with her family — including mom, sisters Christine (16) and Jenny
(7), dad John (a baseball coach at College of Charleston),
grandmother Sarah Twiggs (herself a cancer survivor and former
She has a Primal Neural Ectodermal Tumor (PNET) in her chest wall. A
PNET is in the Ewing’s Sarcoma family of soft tissue cancers.
When doctors checked the fluid and Mary-Louise’s bone marrow, they
discovered both were clear of cancer cells.
The next step was to do a physical biopsy of the tumor and to devise
a plan of action.
“The prescribed therapy is actually a ‘formula’ game plan of
action,” said Sarah Ann. Generally such patients have five rounds of
Mary-Louise has done four — two rounds of chemo that require five
days in the hospital and two two-day rounds as an outpatient.
The goal at this point is to stop the growth of the tumor and shrink
it if possible, said Mary-Louise’s mom — “And to prevent it from
spreading,” she added, explaining that Ewing’s Sarcoma is one of
the fastest growing types of tumors. “In just four weeks Mary-
Louise’s grew from very tiny to fist-sized,” she said.
Following her latest treatment Mary-Louise will return for another
scan the second week of March. When the chemo is completed, she will
likely undergo radiation treatment, surgery, more radiation, more chemo.
Meanwhile, Mary-Louise is somewhat homebound. Each round of chemo is
hard on her system. It lowers her blood count and “chemo is very
hard on the heart muscle,” said Sarah Ann, who explained Mary-Louise
has had several echocardiograms to be sure things are going according
to plan. She often has to have a blood transfusion to boost her
counts following the treatments.
And Mary-Louise is becoming her own advocate. “She asks about the
medications ... She’s learning to be a responsible patient.”
While the Pawlowski family is learning to cope, they have also
learned one very important lesson about North Augusta. “It’s nice
to know everybody cares,” said Mary-Louise, who admitted at first
she didn’t want anyone to know about her situation. But then word
got out. “It’s bad to find out this way what a close-knit
community this is,” said Sarah Ann. “... what a small town North
Augusta is,” Mary-Louise added.
“I was so scared,” she said honestly. “I really don’t like
talking about it.” Mary-Louise doesn’t mind explaining her
disease, but she always hopes folks don’t lose sight of her as more
than a 13-year-old with cancer.
She said time and again how grateful she has been for the outpouring
of love and concern in the community.
Sarah Ann said with Mary-Louise in the hospital initially during
Christmas, “people came in droves!” She said Mary-Louise’s
hospital room looked like a dorm room — complete with Christmas
lights, a tree, hundreds of cards ...”
And the food still keeps coming. Sarah Ann’s aunt set up the
family’s traditional Christmas buffet at the hospital. When Mary-
Louise’s dad’s family came down from New Jersey there was dinner
Two efforts in Mary-Louise’s name have snowballed. First, the best
friend of her dad, had some bracelets made up when Mary-Louise was
first diagnosed. They are purple (Mary-Louise’s favorite color) tie-
dye and say “WE R PRAYING 4 MLP” — in the text-messaging format,
her mom pointed out. At first they just gave the bracelets away. But
they began having requests from all over — College of Charleston
players, players on teams that oppose CofC (George Mason, for
example), Clemson (where John was once the pitching coach), etc. Mary-
Louise’s uncle in New Jersey ordered a supply; her uncle in Richmond
also ordered a supply. Sarah Ann said, “My brother’s friends saw
his bracelet and said, ‘Dude, what’s up with the purple
bracelet.’ Then when he explained, they wanted one, too.” So
they’ve set up a foundation and the proceeds from bracelet sales go
to the MLP Foundation.
Now there is a can-tab effort in her name and the calls are coming
from all over. What began at North Augusta Middle School has now
spread to several elementary schools. “John has even received calls
from Tennessee — people wanting to join the can tab drive,” said
And as family and friends and strangers offer their support to Mary-
Louise, she is looking forward to the day she can resume some of her
For now she’s content doing homework and watching the Gilmore
Girls — her favorite. Her mom explained she had gotten the entire
series for Mary-Louise for Christmas — before her illness.
And Mary-Louise enjoys deliveries of such things as the neighbor’s
homemade fries. However, there are things she can’t enjoy right now.
Her mom pointed out she can’t have fresh fruit, fresh vegetables or
fresh flowers in the house. And she can’t have anything latex —
like balloons. (Only mylar are allowed.)
“They have to be expensive balloons,” laughed Mary-Louise.
Mary-Louise has become somewhat philosophical about her current
situation. “I feel sorry for anybody that has to go through this,”
she said honestly.
But she quickly added, “If people want to do something, they can
donate blood to the MCG blood bank.”
And Mary-Louise is looking forward to a return to normalcy.
“Life is going to be great,” she said with a glimmer in her eye.
For one thing, she’ll once again be able to ride a roller coaster.
For more information on Mary-Louise and how you can help, visit
Phyllis P. Britt
106 E. Buena Vista Ave.
North Augusta, SC 29841
MOUNT PLEASANT — Forget that "us versus them" stuff. When it comes to the game of life, we're all on the same team.
That was very evident here Friday night when the nationally ranked Clemson Tigers came to town to play the College of Charleston in baseball. It was more than an in-state rivalry because of the coaching connection. And the human connection.
The real story is off the field where Cougars coach John Pawlowski's 13-year-old daughter, Mary-Louise, is fighting a cancer known as PNET (primitive neuroectodermal tumors) a rare form of malignancy found in only two percent of children with cancer.
News of her disease spread quickly through the college baseball community earlier this year and the response has been overwhelming.
Clemson, where Pawlowski pitched in college and coached before taking over the College of Charleston program, responded by setting up a special fund that they advertise at their home games.
"John is a friend in need," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said Friday before addressing a gathering of Clemson fans before the baseball game. "He and his family are going through a tough time. But Mary-Louise was born in Clemson, so I know she's tough. We just want to help any way we can."
A perfect strike
Mary-Louise, a fresh-faced schoolgirl who lives with her mother in North Augusta, was on hand Friday night as a standing-room-only crowd jammed Patriots Point Stadium for the first big game of the season against the Tigers.
Dressed in jeans and a jacket, she wore a pink stocking cap to hide the damage done to her hairdo by chemotherapy.
In an emotional pre-game ceremony, she was presented a replica of her father's No. 43 Clemson jersey by coach Leggett.
The Tigers also wore their purple uniforms, her favorite color.
Just before walking out on the field, Mary-Louise looked out over the largest home crowd of the young season and admitted to be being a little intimidated.
"It's kind of nerve-racking," she said. "I'm kind of scared, but I'm glad to do it. I haven't practiced the throw because I just found out yesterday that I was going to do it."
As for her health, she said, "I have some bad days and some good days, but today is a good day. And I'd like to say that I appreciate all the nice things people are doing for us."
That said, she walked out to the front of the pitcher's mound with her father, took the ball and tossed a perfect strike across the plate.
Saying thank you
This heartwarming story has become a popular cause in college baseball circles. Every team that comes to town wears the purple and white wristbands that represent her battle.
The University of South Carolina, through the Ray Tanner Foundation, has also contributed to the effort.
"All the things that people have done for Mary-Louise and the battle to find a cure has just left me speechless many times," coach Pawlowski said. "You don't really know how important people are until you go through something like this.
"I wish I could thank people for all that they have done. Sometimes I sit in my office and tears come down my face.
"The response from the coaching community has been tremendous. You know, we all wear different uniforms, but when it comes to something like this we're all on the same team."
Reach Ken Burger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Paws for the Cure" - Friends of Mary Louise Pawlowski
This shirt was designed by Mr. Knickerbocker to support Mary-Louise Pawlowski, daughter of former pitcher and Clemson Baseball coach John Pawlowski. Five dollars of every shirt sold goes directly to help offset the cost of her treatment. Click here to order a shirt.
What makes Mr. Knickerbocker unique is its dedication to Clemson as 100% of our merchandise is licensed Clemson products. With its total focus on Clemson University, Mr. Knickerbocker has a national reputation with Tiger fans, and the success of this unique philosophy has earned us the respect of manufacturers and other retailers.
"A Clemson Tradition for over Twenty Five Years."
The College of Charleston Baseball team plays at Clemson on Tuesday May 13, 2008 at 7:15pm
CLEMSON — Though she didn’t have enough strength to throw Tuesday’s ceremonial first pitch to Clemson coach Jack Leggett, Mary-Louise Pawlowski did have enough energy just to be present prior to Clemson’s 12-6 victory over the College of Charleston.
The daughter of College of Charleston head coach John Pawlowski, 13-year-old Mary-Louise is just two weeks removed from having a cancerous tumor taken from her chest. She joined her dad at Doug Kingsmore Stadium with her mom and her two sisters as Clemson presented her foundation with a check for $15,000.
The donation will help pay for Mary-Louise’s surgeries as well help fund research to fight cancers.
“Mary-Louise is the toughest girl I know,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said.
Clemson’s baseball program raised the money through the many denotations and generosity of Tiger fans.
“When I committed to Clemson as a player back in 1982, Coach (Bill) Wilhelm said, ‘Your commitment to Clemson just isn’t for four years, but a lifetime,’” John Pawlowski said. “Tonight is a perfect example of that.”
The Cougars head coach threw the first pitch out for his daughter, a perfect strike down the middle of the plate. Pawlowski played for Wilhelm from 1983-85 and then was Leggett’s pitching coach at Clemson from 1994-1998.
“All the cards, the e-mails and phone calls you have sent Mary-Louise has really helped,” Pawlowski told the crowd. “You don’t know how much that means to her, to me and to the rest of our family.”
In honor of Mary-Louise both teams warmed up in purple t-shirts with the words Paws for a cure. Mary-Louise’s favorite color is purple. Clemson fans raised an extra $1,600 during the game for Mary-Louise’s foundation.
“We are deeply in love with you and your family,” Leggett told Mary-Louise. “We are with you and we are with you all the way to the end of this. You have your whole future ahead of you.”
Leggett’s baseball team also had its future ahead of them and when all the festivities were over, they had to concentrate on beating Pawlowski’s team. With the Tigers’ chances of making the ACC Tournament still up in the air, they desperately needed Tuesday’s win to keep their NCAA Regional hopes alive. Clemson has qualified for 21 straight NCAA Tournaments.
“We swung the bats well again, against a good team,” Leggett said.
The Tigers finished the game with 10 hits and got two home runs from Stan Widmann and one from Jeff Schaus. Mike Freeman and Matt Sanders also had two hits for Clemson.
The Tigers have now totaled 28 runs and 30 hits in the last two games.
“It feels good to swing the bats a little bit,” Leggett said.
The Tigers (27-25-1) took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Jeff Schaus took a Clay Caulfield’s pitch to left field that clear the fence for a two-run homer. It was Schaus’ first home run of his career.
In the second inning, Clemson sent 12 batters to plate and put seven more runs on the board, highlighted by Stan Widmann’s first home run of the season. The junior shortstop took Danny Meszaros' first pitch in relief to deep left for a three-run home run.
Widmann later hit a second home run, this time a two-run shot to left, which gave Clemson a 12-2 lead through seven innings. The two home runs in one game was a first for the junior, while his 5 RBIs were a career-high for a single game.
“I just happened to see it and hit (the ball) hard tonight,” Widmann said. “I was making good contact.”
Clemson used seven pitchers in the win with Casey Harman, who pitched two scoreless innings, being credited with the win.
With one must-win under their belts, the Tigers will now turn their attention to Central Florida, who they will visit Thursday in Orlando, Fla., for the first of a three-game series.
“All we can do as a team is still hope,” Widmann said. “We are going to go down there and play these three games and when we are through with them, we will prepare to play more games this season.”
CLEMSON — Had they opted to call off the game and go home before the first pitch, there probably wouldn't have been much protest.
Baseball took a back seat to humanity Tuesday evening at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, where Mary-Louise Pawlowski was honored before College of Charleston's game at Clemson.
Pawlowski, 13-year-old daughter of Cougars coach John Pawlowski, was presented with a check for $15,000 that was raised to help pay for her medical expenses as she battles a rare form of cancer.
Mary-Louise was born in Clemson when her father was an assistant coach for the Tigers. Her favorite color is purple, and during a moving pregame ceremony both teams wore shirts emblazoned with: "Paws for the Cure — Friends of Mary-Louise Pawlowski."
"It's always good to be in a position to be able to help when someone needs it," said Clemson coach Jack Leggett.
Mary-Louise, who lives in North Augusta with her mother and two sisters, was diagnosed with PNET (primitive neuroectodermal tumors), a rare malignancy seen in only 2 percent of children with cancer.
Last month, she underwent successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her chest. Leggett spearheaded a fundraising drive and presented the check to the Mary-Louise Pawlowski Foundation after a speech at home plate.
"It's hard to describe what coach Leggett and the Clemson family has done for our family," John Pawlowski said. "It's heartfelt and very meaningful, special."
This certainly goes beyond the wins and losses, beyond the playing field. I can't thank the Clemson family enough for what they did tonight and what they've done for us."
Last Tuesday was a big day for John Pawlowski. How big was it?
He interviewed in Atlanta to become the head baseball coach at Auburn, four years after he first auditioned for the job he should've gotten then. This interview wasn't the most significant event on his family's to-do list that day. His middle daughter, 13-year-old Mary-Louise, had a more meaningful appointment.
It turned out to be a very good day.
Pawlowski got the job.
Mary-Louise got to go home - it was an outpatient treatment - and she doesn't have to go back for another round until next month.
"She's my hero," Pawlowski said Saturday morning, "and my inspiration."
Returning Auburn baseball to respectability, let alone the glory days it enjoyed under Hal Baird, may not be easy. Just don't tell the new coach from the College of Charleston how hard his latest challenge is.
Hard is your daughter feeling a pain in her side after volleyball practice that she first thought and you later wished was a pulled muscle.
Hard is an X-ray showing a spot on her lung that isn't pneumonia.
Hard is having to tell her she has a rare form of cancer.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Pawlowski said.
Harder than running a marathon, and he's run seven of them. Harder than getting divorced and living apart from his three daughters.
The news about Mary-Louise's condition came just before Christmas.
"It's your worst fear, facing something like this," Pawlowski said. "If it's me, that's the cycle of life. I could deal with it. But when it's a child, especially your own child, it breaks your heart."
It didn't break the family's spirit. Or Mary-Louise. "At first," her dad said, "she didn't want people to know."
Now she blogs on her own Web site, www.MLPfoundation.org.
When eighth-grader Mary Louise Pawlowski felt the pain in her side at volleyball practice last fall, she thought she was having a muscle spasm. When the pain moved into her back and shoulders, doctors thought she had pneumonia.
But last December, 13-year-old Mary Louise, one of three daughters of newly hired Auburn baseball coach John Pawlowski and Sarah Ann Pawlowski, learned the terrifying truth. She had had primitive neuroectodermal tumors, a rare form of childhood bone cancer.
“it was real late at night,” Mary Louise told AuburnUndercover.com. “My parents were worried because my biopsy surgery had gone on for a long time. I asked my mom what was wrong with me. It was actually my dad who told me. I cried for hours and hours. I didn’t want to see anybody. I didn’t anybody to see me.”
Her parents cried, too, and felt the panic that can only come when a parent senses his or her child is in danger. Mary Louise, who lives with her mother and sisters in North Augusta, S.C., had always been an active, athletic girl. She had been in dance for six years and played volleyball for North Augusta Middle School. That she could be so sick was too much to comprehend, much less accept.
“If it happened to me or my parents, that’s kind of the way it goes,” John Pawlowski said. “But when it happens to somebody that young, to your child, it’s hard.”
The road ahead would be a difficult one. Mary Louise would have the tumor and two ribs removed from her right side in six hours of surgery and would face a demanding regimen of chemotherapy. But her spirit was too strong, her determination too real to give in to fear. She inspired people she’d never known.
“You read about it and see it and it always happens to somebody else,” John Pawlowski said. “When it hits home, it’s like 'this can’t be.' It put a different spin and different life on everything. So many people have reached out and so many people are so giving and caring. It gives everybody hope that there are so many people out there that truly want to help people. It’s forever impacted my life and the family’s life.”
Mary Louise says she feared what people would think of her when she lost her hair. She wondered if she would be able to bring herself to go out in public. But she pushed on. Even one so young soon realized she could make a difference.
“At first, she didn’t want anybody to know about it,” John Pawlowski said. “Her mom went out and bought her a wig that cost over $1,000. She has never worn that wig. She put it on and said ‘It’s too hot and I don’t like it. She said, ‘People are going to take me for what I am.’ She has come so far. She doesn’t care if people look at her. She’s proud of where she is, proud of what she’s doing. She’s taught me a lot.
“She was a young, shy girl who was afraid people would look at her differently. Now she’s OK with it. It’s so refreshing. Here is a 13-year-old girl that isn’t afraid. What she’s been through compared to losing games, oh my gosh. This is life stuff.”
As Mary Louise’s story was told, support for her grew. At the behest of Jack Leggett, who coached John Pawlowski at Clemson and later hired him as his pitching coach, the university set up the Mary Louise Pawlowski fund and presented a $15,000 check before the two teams played in the final game of the regular season.
“I never expected all the support, all the cards,” Mary Louise said. “I’ve gotten well over 100 cards. People have been so nice and I appreciate it so much.”
Later this year, Mary Louise’s father, an avid runner when he’s not busy coaching baseball, is going to run a Marathon in her honor. He once made $10,000 for College of Charleston baseball by getting sponsors for each mile her ran in a Marathon. His next one will be for his daughter.
“I’m going to have people sponsor me for every mile I run and all the proceeds are going to go to whatever charity she chooses – cancer research for children, some cancer hospital, whatever,” he said. “I’m going to run the Marathon, raise the money, put all the donations in there and have her present one of those big, oversized checks to the charity at Christmastime. She was so excited when I told her.”
Mary Louise’s prognosis is promising. She’ll go back into the hospital next week for another round of chemotherapy. If all goes as expected, she'll be finished with the treatments before Thanksgiving.
“When I first got treatment, I got sick a lot,” Mary Louise said. “Christmas Eve, I couldn’t even eat. I don’t get sick like that anymore. I get real nauseous and get a real bad taste in my mouth, but if I didn’t do it, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Mary Louise’s favorite color is purple, and thousands have bought purple wrist bands bearing the words “We R Praying 4 MLP.” As he talked in his new office, John Pawlowski showed his purple wristband.
“We decided to get a little wristband as a show of support,” John Pawlowski said. “People started asking for them. Twenty turned into probably over 2,000. I haven’t taken it off since the day I put it on, and I won’t until I know she’s cured."
Mary Louise looks forward to being ready to watch her father's first Auburn baseball team take the field. She visited for the first time over the July 4th weekend.
"He's been wanting that job since four years ago," Mary Louise said. "I'm proud of him. I love Auburn."For regular updates on Mary Louise’s progress or to donate, visit www.mlpfoundation.org.
"Why am I doing this?," he thinks to himself. Everything hurts. Feet, ankles, knees, hips, sides, even hair; You name it, it hurts. But he continues on.
Soon the wall crumbles a brick at a time and the runner finds new life. Onlookers issue encouragement as the final steps in this 26 mile gut check are within sight.
John Pawlowski knows the pain won't last but his mental strength will. He presses on to finish another marathon. If he needs an extra motivator, he has one available.
Pawlowski's daughter Mary-Louise provides inspiration in spades. Many fathers gain strength from their children. This is different. This is much more than the usual scenario.
A life changer
|Auburn Media Relations|
|Pawlowski came running when Auburn called|
It had been a tough season. After being spurned by the Regional Selection Committee in 2007, Pawlowski was dealt the kind of blow that made baseball seem trivial.
His daughter Mary-Louise -- now 13 -- was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called primitive neuroectodermal tumors or PNET.
"It forever changes your life," Pawlowski said. "You pick up the paper and see things like this happen to others but you never think it will happen to you, your family, or your child. It has impacted me and given me drive to do my part - just to do whatever it is I can do."
Since that diagnosis, Mary-Louise has undergone successful surgery to remove the tumor. The chemotherapy continues, and through it all, her mental strength and toughness shines through.
"The protocol is she has six more sessions that will go deep into the fall," the coach said of his daughter. "She just has to keep fighting through the fall.
"So many people have stepped up to the plate with prayers and support."
Mary-Louise was on hand for a special pregame ceremony in which the Clemson Baseball Office where Pawlowski played and was an assistant, presented Mary-Louise and her family with a check for $15,000.
Another big moment
There will be more fund-raisers but they will come from a new locale. After the 2008 season Pawlowski was approached for the Auburn job. His candidacy was not a huge surprise since he was on the short list when Auburn hired Tom Slater before the 2004 season. After Slater's resignation in May, the Tigers came calling again. As has been the norm, Pawlowski's life again changed quickly.
This time it was good news.
"On Friday, June 20th I went to my office to work at College of Charleston. That evening, I was working at Auburn," he said. "That is how quickly it happened."
Most of the time, coaches get hired because the last guy did not win enough. That premise applies in Auburn, but Slater's problem was not related to assembling talent. Auburn annually brought in great freshmen classes. The knock came on developing the athletes and finding whatever formula the successful clubs have to win against similar talent.
"We want to find the right makeup with the will to win," Pawlowski said. "It takes a special person to be successful at this level. We want kids who want to be out there. We want the kids hustling, the ones having fun with energy and excitement. That is contagious."
Pawlowski's emphasis inside the program will be on discipline. He may not have 25 marathon runners, but he wants a focused, hard-nosed bunch.
"We have to mentally prepare for the game within the game," he explained; "Check our egos at the bat rack and focus on the team."
He takes over an Auburn squad that went 28-28 last season and one that has not claimed a spot in the eight-team SEC Tournament since 2003.
Pawlowski is intent on changing both of those statistics but understands the path to glory is rocky.
"I consider it the ultimate challenge to work in this conference with the best coaches and players in the nation," said Pawlowski. "Everybody in this conference is good. Everyone has great coaches and great facilities. There is not much separation.
"I think at anywhere in the SEC, it is not unrealistic to think any program is far off from their goals. The players are there. The commitment is there."
Pawlowski understands commitment.
Run Coach Run
|Auburn looks to take the next step|
As his career evolved from player to coach, the running changed as well.
"When I got into coaching, it became a way to get away from cell-phones and pagers and relieve stress," he explained. "It continued over time and now I run for a cause. I have enough inspiration because of what has happened in my personal life."
Pawlowski has run seven marathons running Kiawah three times, Baltimore, the Marine Corps in Washington DC, West Palm Beach, and last October in Chicago. In that 2007 Chicago Marathon, AP reported at least 49 runners were taken to hospitals and another 250 received treated at the race. There was even one fatality causing the race to be halted in the low-90 degree heat.
Pawlowski finished without incident and raised $10,000 for Cougar Baseball through pledges to his "Run-Coach-Run" Fundraising Program.
This fall, marathon number eight is planned for New York City.
And Run-Coach-Run has a new benefactor.
"This season I plan to run the New York City Marathon on November 2 and have people sponsor me per mile," Pawlowski said. "My daughter wanted to do this and donate the proceeds to the Medical College of Georgia. She wants to give back to the Cancer Center for what they have done for her."
With a worthy cause, the coach feels the support swirling around him.
"I don't try to race," Pawlowski said. "I try to finish.
"I'm going to finish, and this year my daughter will be there waiting at the finish line."
You can follow Mary-Louise Pawlowski's progress at mlpfoundation.org
Also check back later for more from Pawlowski as he talks about the Auburn program.
ANDREW GRIBBLE, STAFF WRITER
Published: November 8, 2008
You can’t stop Mary Louise from thinking about the future.
That’s the next time she’ll be able to go on a vacation with her dad, John Pawlowski, Auburn’s new baseball coach. It’s the next time she’ll drag him on one of those “loop-de-loop” roller coasters; the type of ride that he’ll only strap himself in for if his “feisty” 14-year-old daughter — his “hero” — is right by his side.
Don’t bother her with the past, or even the present, which has her rotating from her house in North Augusta, S.C., to five-day-at-a-time chemotherapy sessions at a children’s hospital in Augusta, Ga.
She’s lost her hair and she’s lost a year of school with her best friends. But nowhere along the way of this now-yearlong journey has she lost her confidence that this cancer, one of the rarest forms found in children, will eventually be beaten.
“She’s been in the mindset where we’re going to beat this thing,” Pawlowski said. “It’s an inspiration. She’s a hero for me to see what she’s been through and to see how she’s tackled it.”
The news hit Pawlowski harder than a wayward slider to the ribs.
“It knocks you to your knees,” Pawlowski said. “It makes everything else, all the issues and the problems you have going on at the time, very irrelevant.”
Mary Louise came home from volleyball practice one night, complaining of soreness on her right side and back. Probably just a pulled muscle, Pawlowski thought.
X-rays revealed a spot on Mary Louise’s lungs, a touch of pneumonia, doctors told Pawlowski. After a few days off school and a couple weeks’ worth of medication, Mary Louise was supposed to be back on the volleyball court.
Instead, the pain got much worse. A trip back to the doctor’s office, followed by second and third opinions from across the country, confirmed it.
This wasn’t a pulled muscle or even a bad case of pneumonia. Mary Louise had a tumor the size of a fist in her right chest wall. If action wasn’t taken soon, it’d soon be the size of a volleyball.
“It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, was tell my daughter that,” Pawlowski said. “She was devastated, and we all were devastated.”
Mary Louise’s cancer is known as primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET). It is a rare form of bone cancer seen in only 2 percent of children afflicted with cancer.
Pawlowski, coaching at the College of Charleston, denied the prognosis at first. Something’s wrong, he thought, the doctors must be wrong. Then, he got mad.
“Why? Why’d this happen to her?” he asked. “I’d trade. I’d trade with her in two seconds if I could.”
The third stage sent Pawlowski into action. After reading everything he could possibly find about PNET on the Internet, Pawlowski was convinced that Mary Louise could knock this disease out cold.
Mary Louise had long beat him to it, throwing punches from the start.
‘Doing her thing’
Mary Louise is a 14-year-old journalist — sort of.
She frequently updates a blog on her personal Web site, mlpfoundation.org.
From the start, Mary Louise took the glass-half-full approach, and has been pumping sunshine ever since.
“Until December 13, 2007, I thought life was normal and almost kinda boring,” Mary Louise writes. “But life has a way of knocking you out of your comfort zone, making you get up, brush yourself off and prove how tough you can be.
“I think I’m pretty tough. I know I can beat Cancer.”
She’s well on her way.
Mary Louise had surgery to remove the tumor April 30. She has since been in and out of the hospital for rounds of chemoapy. She wrapped up a successful session Monday and has one more to go. In December, she will have a full-body evaluation to see if all the cancer has been wiped away.
“She has led a different life this year, totally different,” Pawlowski said. “She’ll have a different perspective on life than all of us.”
In between her time in the hospital, Mary Louise continues her schoolwork at home with a private teacher. When she has enough strength, she’s just another eighth-grade girl, taking trips to the mall with her two sisters.
But it’s hard, Pawlowski said. It’s hard when your white blood cell count drops so low that a common cold could send you to the emergency room. It’s hard when nausea can overtake you at any moment.
But Mary Louise won’t show it. She won’t fake it, either.
When she lost all her hair after the first round of chemo, Mary Louise’s mother, Sarah Ann, bought her a wig. It cost $1,000 and insurance didn’t cover it.
It also doesn’t cover Mary Louise’s head anymore.
“She said ‘This is not me. This is not who I am,’ ” Pawlowski said. “Would she like to have her hair back? Sure, but that’s the least of her worries right now. She gets out in public and does her thing. That’s great.”
Two weeks after her surgery, which removed the tumor and two of her ribs, she was out of the hospital and with Pawlowski in Clemson, dad’s alma mater, for his team’s game against the Tigers. In her honor, the Tigers wore purple jerseys and purple wristbands with the message “We R Praying 4 MLP.”
Pawlowski has since doled out thousands of the bracelets, a number of
which will be worn by his new players at Auburn.
It was the start of something big.
Saturday night’s benefit at Moore’s Mill Golf Club Pavilion raised at least $5,000 toward the MLP Foundation. That foundation, by the way, was the brainchild of Mary Louise.
The non-profit organization takes donations and gifts to support cancer research and helps others burdened by medical-related expenses.
“So many positive things come out of this every single day,” Pawlowski said.
The walls in Pawlowski’s office are bare. Most of his belongings are in storage.
He’s been in Auburn for 122 days now, and he still hasn’t moved out of his extended-stay hotel.
“Anytime you change jobs,” Pawlowski said, “your life gets thrown into turmoil.”
Sure, it’s been hectic since Mary Louise received her diagnosis. But heck, life’s been crazy ever since Pawlowski chose his career.
Now, though, he’s living a life without blinders. The tunnel vision he used to peer through is gone. Mary Louise’s battle has opened up everything.
“We all get in this rut where we’re zoned in and nothing is going to
stop us,” Pawlowski said. “Then you realize ‘Hold on, what’s really
important and what are we here for?’
“It’s not material things, it’s not things we’re going to take with us, it’s not about how much wealth we’ll accumulate. It’s how we treat other people and how people want to treat you.
“It’s helping people.”
When Pawlowski has a free afternoon, he drives the three hours to North Augusta to check in on Mary Louise and visit his two other daughters, Christine and Jenny. Pawlowski and Sarah Ann are divorced.
But when Pawlowski has only a free hour or two, he throws on his running shoes and jogs until he is needed back at work.
Pawlowski is a marathon runner. He’s run one a year in each of the past eight years.
This year’s trip sent Pawlowski up north for the New York City Marathon, where he traded shin splints for cash toward cancer.
In another idea spawned by Mary Louise, Pawlowski created the Web site runcoachrun.org and collected donations that went toward the Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center, the hospital Mary Louise has checked in and out of over the past year.
“She wanted to help give back to the people that have given to her,” Pawlowski said. “She’s something special, that’s for sure.”
Marathons don’t get easier as you get older, said Pawlowski, 45, and the latest one was certainly a challenge. Temperatures hovered around freezing and Mary Louise, who originally planned to be there at the finish line, couldn’t make it because of her latest round of chemo.
Pawlowski finished the marathon in three hours, 48 minutes and 22 seconds. The next day, he jumped on a plane and flew to Augusta to visit Mary Louise in the hospital and give her his consolation prize.
“She was hoping she’d be there at the finish line, but unfortunately it didn’t work out,” Pawlowski said. “But when I put the medal around her neck, she was pretty excited about it.”
That excitement promises to continue.
When this rollercoaster ride of an experience comes to its happy ending, you better believe Mary Louise will be first in line for the tallest, loopiest rollercoaster she can coax her dad to ride.
“She’s going to beat this,” Pawlowski said. “And we’re going to look back on this and say, ‘What an experience.’ ”
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Dec. 18, 2008 AUGUSTA, Ga. - Auburn
University Head Baseball Coach John Pawlowski and his family recently
donated $10,000 to the MCGHealth Children's Medical Center in honor of
his daughter, Mary-Louise, who has cancer.
The 14-year-old was diagnosed with PNET (primitive neuroectodermal tumors), a rare malignancy seen in only 2 percent of pediatric cancer patients, shortly before Christmas last year. Since then, she has received chemotherapy treatments and had surgery at the MCGHealth Children's Medical Center.
"It is very exciting for Mary-Louise and our family to be able to give back to the MCGHealth Children's Medical Center because of all they've done for us," Coach Pawlowski said. "We had a big decision to make in where she would receive her care. We looked at hospitals all over the country, and we decided she'd stay here. The care has been great in the hematology/oncology clinic at the MCGHealth Children's Medical Center, and we're very thankful for that."
Last month, Coach Pawlowski raised a portion of the $10,000 donation by running in the New York City Marathon. The money will be used to purchase a much needed blanket warmer for the pediatric hematology/oncology clinic at the MCGHealth Children's Medical Center. "Mary-Louise wants to make sure that when patients are getting cancer treatments that they have a warm blanket," Coach Pawlowski said.
MCG Health, Inc. (d/b/a MCGHealth) is a not-for-profit corporation operating the MCGHealth Medical Center, MCGHealth Children's Medical Center, the Georgia Radiation Therapy Center, and related outpatient facilities and services throughout the state. For more information, please visit mcghealth.org.