GARDINER — We’re all family.

It’s a cliche that has become a go to answer for most high school athletes when asked what makes their team special.

When Andrew Doody Veilleux, a senior captain on the Gardiner Area High School football team, says it though, he truly means it. Over the past six months he has seen firsthand just how much his teammates are there for him.

“We’re all together. We’re all family. We do everything together,” Doody Veilleux said. “We’re in practice working together, getting everybody through everything and my team has definitely been there for me, supportive through the whole thing.”

In March, Doody Veilleux’s mother, Jessica Doody, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called chronic myelogenous leukemia, in which the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells.

“I had iron problems for a couple years and I had never had iron problems before,” Doody said. “I continued to question my doctor about it and they finally took a look at my history. (They) said I had some blood work back in 2011 that wasn’t quite right and they hadn’t followed up on it. They repeated that blood work and my white cell count was 61,000 at the time, and normal is between (4,000) and (10,000).”

After her diagnosis Doody said the first step doctors tried was tyro kinase inhibitors, but it was ineffective and she was transferred to doctors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She began undergoing chemo therapy on July 19 and, on July 24, she had a bone marrow transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“Then I stayed in the hospital for about another three weeks,” Doody said. “I was discharged on Aug. 12 but didn’t actually go home until Aug. 19. Then I’ve been going down to Dana Farber every week and (Wednesday) I graduated to bi-weekly visits.”

Doody said her prognosis is still uncertain, but so far the early results have been positive.

“We don’t know,” she said. “My numbers are going up really good so they’re thinking that it’s going to be a positive outcome, but we really won’t know for a couple of years.

“They have to just keep an eye on my blood counts and what kind of cells are in my blood and go from there.”

This past Friday Doody had the chance to join her son on the field prior to the Tigers’ season opener against Lawrence. There she was named one of the team’s honorary captains — part of a week-long Drive Out Cancer initiative to help raise money for the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care — along with Gardiner assistant coach Joe White’s father, John. John White passed away this past spring after a battle with leukemia. Accepting on his behalf were Joe White and his mother, Beth.

“It was really emotional,” Doody said. “I’m very thankful that I’m alive. We didn’t know going into it because my CML was so rare and I’m just really grateful. The support that everyone has showed has been unbelievable and it was really great to meet Mrs. White.”

Football and the Gardiner community have always been there for Doody and her son, ever since Andrew began playing flag football in city at 6 years old.

“They’re really close knit and they would do anything for everybody,” Doody said. “They’re just an amazing group of people. They’re really good at showing that they care and that they support you and that they love you.”

Football in particular is something the two have shared over the years, even when there were questions on whether or not Doody would have the chance to watch her son play in his senior season.

“The one thing she was upset about was she didn’t think she was going to make it to the football games,” Doody Veilleux said. “I got a phone call one day while she was in the hospital and (it was) nothing but excitement (that) she was going to be home in time.

“I knew she’d be a tough woman and she’d make it through it. She’d want me to play.”

On the field, Doody Veilleux definitely has some of his mother’s fight in him. A two-year captain for the Tigers, he has spent his career fighting in the trenches as an offensive/defensive lineman.

“He played with a broken hand last year a couple games, never complained,” Gardiner coach Matt Burgess said. “He’s a hell of a wrestler too.”

The Gardiner football team has fallen on tough times over the past few years, having lost its past 10 games dating back to the Tigers’ 33-21 loss to Mt. Blue in the 2012 Eastern B semifinals.

Adversity, however, is nothing new to Andrew Doody Veilleux.

He has seen his share of tough times over the past few months and has refused to let it get him down — a trait he most certainly shares with his mother.

Just because the Tigers are down, don’t expect them to give up.

It’s not in their captain’s — nor his mother’s — nature.

“He is tough and I think that he does really well in the face of adversity,” Doody said. “Through this whole process he has shown himself to be mature and responsible.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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