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Human interest/sports feature

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by pressboxramblings07, May 31, 2007.

  1. This is a story I did for this week on a freshman baseball player who suffers from Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. I was hoping to get some good critiques and feedback. It's all been great so far.

    My time constraints on this story were not good at all. I only had a few hours to write it, unforunately. I think it could definitely have been more powerful and detailed better in spots, but I'll let the critics decide that. :) AP picked up the story today, so that was a goal accomplished for me.

    Coleton Wedel ignored the pain. No matter how much his foot hurt, he was not going to stop playing the game he loved.

    He would pitch, hit and play out in the field, often unable to stick his leg out completely straight or put his heel down first when he walked.

    The metal cleat that sunk into the left side of his foot had caused enough problems. After many sleepless nights and constant pain, it was time to go to the doctor.

    It’s nerve damage, one doctor said.

    His pediatrician agreed. So did a foot specialist.

    About four months later, Coleton had an X-ray. It showed one of his hips was slightly lower than the other, likely another reason for the pain.

    He still played baseball. The pain would come and go, he said, and that wasn’t going to keep him off the field.

    Coleton’s a tough, 14-year-old competitor. He made Carlisle’s varsity team as a freshman.

    About three weeks ago, however, Coleton felt an intense amount of pain and numbness in his foot on a trip to the Hill Country.

    An MRI at an orthopedic surgeon’s office resulted in news that no kid or parent ever wants to hear: Coleton had a tumor on his lower spine.

    Take him to Children’s Hospital in Dallas, as fast as possible, the doctor said.

    “I never knew I had something like this,” Coleton said. “I played baseball this whole time.”

    His last game was Carlisle’s final district game against Tenaha. Coleton played catcher.

    His season was over. Playing in the playoffs, the hope of competing for a state title, was all gone.

    Coleton had surgery on May 16 to remove part of the tumor, hoping to relieve some of the pressure on the nerve sac on his spine. Sadly, it wasn’t over. In fact, it was worse. Further tests showed the tumor was cancerous.

    On May 18, Coleton was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer often found in children.

    His parents, Ross and Sylvia Wedel, were told the news first. They heard the details of Coleton’s condition — the cancer had spread throughout his right arm and shoulder, his ribs and up to his skull.

    Their youngest child had a 20-25 percent chance of survival.

    “We both went into shock,” Sylvia said. “... couldn’t breathe, couldn’t talk. A hundred things go through your mind at that time. You just can’t imagine the feeling.”

    Said Ross: “As parents you watch your kids grow up, you watch them play ball. You know they’re growing, like everything. You never dream that this will happen to your kid. Your life just turned 180 degrees.”

    Just like on the baseball field, Coleton did not back down. He was ready to take this thing head on.

    Coleton’s doctors inserted a port on his side for chemotherapy. Over the next 24 to 36 hours, he underwent more tests.

    The Wedels’ world had already turned upside down, but for once, it seemed, something good happened.

    Ross said Coleton had another MRI after the port was inserted. The MRI came back clear.

    Confused, the doctors ordered another MRI of his skull.

    Crystal clear.

    Another bone scan and a biopsy test on his bone marrow.


    “The doctor said she had never seen this in the 25 years she worked there,” Ross said. “She said, ’You have the people in radiology with their mouths opened.”’

    “She told Coleton we got our miracle,” Sylvia added, smiling at her son.

    Coleton’s chances increased dramatically. Ross said that there is a 65-70 percent chance that once the cancer is gone from the chemotherapy, it will never return.

    “We look at it as an answer to a lot of prayers,” Ross said. “There are a lot of people rallying behind Coleton.”

    Coleton said he’s confident he’ll beat this disease.

    His doctors said he will have to undergo chemotherapy — four rounds plus five weeks of radiation — over a period of nine months to a year.

    Coleton, on his own schedule, said it better only take nine months.

    That’s about the time for next baseball season.


    Coleton quietly walks out to left field. His teammates are waiting for him.

    Silence seems to overwhelm the area for a moment. Everyone watches this youngster — who is still fighting hard to beat the odds — go join his team.

    One by one, the Carlisle players shake Coleton’s hand, give him a hug or a pat on the back and say five resonating words: “That was for you, Skinny.”

    Coleton met up with his teammates after Carlisle finished off a 5-4 win over Grapeland on a recent Saturday. The game started on Thursday, and Coleton was there to watch the rain push the last inning of the game to Saturday. He was back two days later, this time in the dugout.

    “It’s been a lot easier (for me) since Carlisle’s been in the playoffs,” said Coleton, a self-proclaimed Boston Red Sox fan. “To have the team rally behind me and say, ’That was for you, Skinny’ and have the support from all the communities . I didn’t know I had that many friends.”

    Coleton got his nickname, “Skinny,” from Carlisle assistant coach Rocky Baker when he was pitching against Arp this season.

    It was a form of motivation, Coleton said. Typical Baker.

    The slogan, “Win it for Skinny,” is on the back of T-shirts at Indians baseball games now. Coleton’s face is there with it.

    Fans yell it during the game, knowing it pumps up the Carlisle players.

    Quinlan takes his brother out to the field with him, in his mind and in his heart.

    The senior shortstop-pitcher was on the mound the final 6 2-3 innings against Grapeland. After the Sandies scored four runs in the first 1 1-3 innings off Carlisle starter Cannon Coleman, Quinlan allowed four hits and no runs to help his team work its way back into the game.

    “It was almost like I wasn’t even pitching,” said Quinlan, who wears Coleton’s No. 5 jersey now. “I’m playing in his spot, you know. He was there and he gave me strength.”

    Carlisle is one round away from the state baseball tournament in Round Rock. The Indians face Lovelady in a best-of-3 Class A regional final series in Lufkin that started Wednesday.

    Coleton will be there, and you know he’ll be in Round Rock, too, if the Indians make it.

    “I think we’d have to hog-tie him to keep him at home,” Ross said.


    Ross noted that he chose not to have health insurance because of the increasingly high costs, especially for the self-employed. It was a risk, he said.

    “It was a bad choice on my part,” Ross said. “I look at this and think that it won’t happen to us. It’s always the next person down the street. Now I’m the person down the street.”

    People from all over East Texas are picking up the Wedels, though. Austin Bank set up the Coleton Wedel Fund to assist with travel costs and medical expenses.

    Another group scheduled a benefit baseball tournament in July, in which local high school teams will compete. Coleton plans on being there.

    There is also a blood drive June 4 at the Troup Public Library, where donors can donate blood in Coleton’s name in case he needs a blood transfusion.

    Coleton shows how much he has matured from his situation simply by his humility and those who have helped.

    He said the support from Carlisle, Troup and beyond has been tremendous. The Carlisle community got together to buy him a laptop for schoolwork in case he has to miss a lot of school in the fall.

    “It’s shown me that if you’re going to learn anything from this, it’s to always pick up the person beside you,” Coleton said. “It taught me that a lot of people care about me.”
  2. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    Good story pressbox and congratulations on getting your story picked up. That is something to be proud of.

    As for the story, I like how you broke it up and the detail you included, but I have a couple of things I thought were missing.

    First: When the tumor was discovered, obviously it was traumatic. But I really didn't feel the emotion of it in your writing. Maybe try a longer quote from one of the parents talking about the shock and describing how they looked when recalling that terrible day. The same could be said for when he was cleared.

    Second: While short graphs is definitely the right style, it feels like you lack enough longer graphs to create a tempo. You have several short graphs/sentences in a row that gives the story a choppy feel.

    Last: This may just be how forgetful I am, but by the time I reached the last part of the story, I had forgotten who Ross (the father) was. I assumed it was the kid's dad, but I had to go back and make sure.

    Other than that, great work and thanks for posting.
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