To Partridge, who had lost her husband two years earlier when brain cancer killed him in a matter of months, the possibility that their middle daughter might have a malignancy was terrifying.
“I didn’t even know who to call to come sit with me,” Partridge recalled. “The person who was supposed to be with me wasn’t there” anymore.
Allison Partridge, then a high school junior, had found the fist-size tumor in her abdomen the previous evening while lying in bed at home. For months, Allie had suffered from severe and worsening pain in her lower abdomen and tailbone, which she usually tried to minimize or deny to protect herself and her mother. But now the pain and the giant lump were too obvious to downplay.
“My mom was definitely freaking out a lot more than I was,” Allie recalled.
Her hospitalization in April 2011 was both traumatic and a turning point, revealing the unusual cause of her problem as well as the essential clue — unknown to her mother — that was overlooked by doctors.
Cleared to play
This was not the first medical scare involving Allie.
When Leigh Partridge was pregnant, a prenatal blood test indicated Allie might have Down syndrome; further testing ruled that out but an ultrasound found that she appeared to have only one kidney.
Her birth in August 1994 revealed that her lone kidney, while larger than normal, was functioning well. About one in every 750 people is born with only one kidney, and most do not have long-term problems as a result.
An audiologist who worked with deaf children, Partridge was sensitive to developmental delays and asked doctors if the sole kidney meant that her daughter would need any follow-up as she grew. Partridge said she was told no.
To make sure it was safe for Allie to play soccer, her mother took her to a pediatric urologist near their suburban Philadelphia home when she was 11. “He said, ‘No tackle football, but go about your business,’ ” Partridge recalled. No special precautions were needed, and Allie began playing soccer and lacrosse competitively.
Her father’s sudden death when she was 14 and a freshman in high school, was a devastating blow. Always a hard worker and a fierce competitor, Allie seemed to redouble her efforts in sports and school. “She got straight A’s after her father died,” her mother said.
But there was a new cause for concern as Allie neared 16: She had never gotten her period. Her pediatrician was unfazed; she was tall, skinny and athletic, a combination that can sometimes cause a delay. But her mother had grown increasingly concerned and had scheduled an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist for July 2010. A month before the appointment, mother and daughter were relieved when Allie got her period.