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Clarksburg girl to have second brain surgery

by Darlene J. Taylor

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Victoria "Tori" Clevenger is like any other 9-year-old girl. She likes ballet, jazz, swimming, camping and playing on her trampoline. The only difference is, Tori has brain cancer.

The petite, blue-eyed brunette has lots of support. She has seven sisters and brothers between the ages of 1-20, and a mother who is always by her side.

When asked how she handles it all, her mother, Melissa Jenkins, said family and friends have been tremendously supportive and "she couldn't possibly thank everyone who has helped them."

"The only difficult thing is having one child who is sick. Even if I had 20 kids, I wouldn't have one to spare."

About nine months ago, Clevenger had a brain tumor the size of a tennis ball removed. Since that time, she has endured chemotherapy treatments and MRIs, as well as treatment for her immune system deficiency.

In June, West Virginia University doctors discovered another brain tumor about the size of a quarter.

Jenkins said radiation surgery didn't work, so the family had two choices: Surgery at WVU or experimental surgery at Duke University.

"We decided on the surgery at WVU. They will remove the tumor in the middle of her brain and insert something that shoots chemo into the spot for 6-8 weeks," Jenkins said.

Clevenger's surgery is scheduled for Aug. 18 with various tests and procedures to be done before that.

They have no way of knowing how long she will be in the hospital or if she will require physical rehabilitation after the surgery.

Thirty percent of gleoblastoma multiforme cancer patients don't make it two years, Jenkins said.

"We are praying for the best. She needs lots of prayers," she said. "We are praying for a clean MRI after the surgery."

Tori said she will be glad to have the surgery and get the tumor out. She misses her long hair and school. The Nutter Fort fourth-grader has been receiving home schooling since November, when she was unable to return to school.

"I like music, gym, reading and spelling," said Clevenger, who also aspires to be a ballet dancer.

She has had the opportunity to experience Disney World, a gift from Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Give Kids the World, a community founded by Henri Landwirth for seriously ill children and their families.

Tori spends much of her free time in the family swimming pool or on the trampoline. She also gets makeovers at the Clarksburg Beauty Academy.

If Tori could do anything in the world, it would be to "meet Faith Hill."

Amanda Mazzie, Clevenger's sister, said they are a really tight family. "This has brought us all closer together."

"It makes you wake up and realize never take a kid for granted," Tori's mother said.

Staff writer Darlene J. Taylor can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at dtaylor@exponent-telegram.com