Krista Veilleux broke out in tears when her daughter Courtney singled home two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Skowhegan in a game last week. That wasn’t unusual. Among the Messalonskee softball parents, Krista is known as the crier.

What was unusual, and even remarkable, was that Courtney was playing softball at all in her senior season at Messalonskee. Just two months earlier, she was in a hospital, having surgery to remove a kidney.

“It’s amazing to see,” Krista said. “A short time ago, we were wondering if she was even able to play.”

One of Courtney’s kidneys had always been different. But it was only last winter, after undergoing an MRI, that she realized what was inside her body.

“I had an appointment in Lewiston with a urologist,” Courtney said. “He told me that when my mom was pregnant with me, my kidney didn’t fully develop, and it just filled up with fluid. So it was just a really thin layer of kidney material and the rest was all fluid that was just sitting there, getting bigger and bigger.”

The problems started last August. Courtney was driving and collided with a trailer carrying a truck. The car was totaled, but Courtney appeared fine.

“A couple days later, I went to lift a laundry basket and I felt a pop in my lower back,” Courtney said. “The pain was completely unbearable. I was in bed for like a week straight.”

An emergency room doctor diagnosed Courtney’s issue as a herniated disc. She did a regimen of physical therapy and thought she was all right until the pain came back. Every time she tried to run during track practice, she felt a sharp, shooting pain across her lower back.

“Everything was disguised nicely,” said Tracey Frost, an assistant coach in track and softball at Messalonskee. “It really looked like a back injury. You could see her kind of stretching her back all the time and you could see the bump.”

During this time, Courtney was in so much pain that she slept five hours on a good night. Still, her desire was to keep competing.

“I’m one of the athletes that pushes myself farther than I probably should sometimes, no matter what it is,” she said.

Finally, after more appointments and referrals, Courtney had an MRI and an ultrasound. Getting to a definitive answer was agonizing. Cancer runs in her family and the MRI showed two large, round, black spots on her left side. While waiting for tests and results, Krista tried to search for information online, which only made things worse.

“It was almost like Google was our worst enemy,” Krista said. “It was a scary thing. It really was. I didn’t portray that to her. It was kind of hard not to seem overwhelmed with thoughts of, ‘What if? What if?'”

The normal kidney is about 4 or 5 inches long and 2 or 3 inches wide — roughly the size of a fist. What Courtney had on her left side was about the size of a football.

“You could see the difference,” Messalonskee softball coach Leo Bouchard said. “One side was normal and the other side, there was a bump on her back.”

The surgery was scheduled for late February. Courtney remembers getting cold feet before the surgery, and when she went in, Krista remembers being alone in the waiting room for four hours and 45 minutes. Finally, she got word that the doctor wanted to see her out back.

“My heart just dropped,” Krista remembered, before finding out why the doctor wanted to see her.

“It was because he had taken some photographs with his iPhone and wanted to show me where things were.”

After the surgery, Courtney began planning her return to the softball team. As the starting center fielder, she wasn’t going to miss her senior year.

“I knew I had five weeks before tryouts started,” she said. “My doctor told me, two weeks after my surgery, I could start easing back into physical activity.”

But Courtney is not known for easing back into anything. She would stop in pain after four or five swings, but otherwise, tried to push herself like she always has.

“We were going to treat her with kid gloves no matter what,” Frost said. “She has been — several times — really, really upset with us, because she felt that she was ready to go and we haven’t. We always err on the side of our athletes anyway, but I certainly pulled more punches with her. We told her right from the get-go, ‘I’d rather have her as an athlete in May than have her as an athlete in March.'”

Frost also throws in some off-color language to describe Courtney’s overall feeling toward the “kid gloves” treatment. When arguing didn’t work, Courtney got creative.

“Being the teenage girl she is, she played the two of us like parents,” Bouchard said. “If he would say no, she’d come to me: ‘Coach, can I do this?’ When we were finally both on the same page, she wasn’t happy about that either. Looking back it, it was kind of comical.”

Bouchard still has the picture in his mind of how thrilled Courtney was when she finally got through batting practice with a whole bucket of balls. Although Bouchard realistically thought she’d be out until May, and although Courtney isn’t thrilled that she’s still only about 85 or 90 percent of full strength, she has reclaimed her status as one of the top outfielders in Eastern A. At the end of last week, Courtney was hitting .550 with a .650 on-base percentage. She plans to play at Thomas College next spring.

“I watch her and I think of all those ‘What ifs?’ that were running through my head,” Krista said. “All those things that it could have been and here I am still standing and watching her play. It was a major surgery, but it turned out not to be something that would take her away from me.”‘

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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