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Kate Rendi, of Walled Lake Central High School, who keeps stats for the boys baseball team, was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, pictured Wednesday April 25, 2012. (Oakland Press Photo By: Vaughn Gurganian)


BASEBALL: Walled Lake Central's Rendi inspiring baseball team WITH VIDEO

Kate Rendi, of Walled Lake Central High School, who keeps stats for the boys baseball team, was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, pictured Wednesday April 25, 2012. (Oakland Press Photo By: Vaughn Gurganian)

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COMMERCE TWP. — Sitting in the dugout for every Walled Lake Central baseball game this year, Central senior Kate Rendi does what all baseball bookkeepers do, which is jot down the game stats.

Yes, her teammates no doubt appreciate her chronicling things such as doubles, stolen bases or strikeouts, but these days they appreciate even more something Rendi provides that can’t simply be written down on a scoresheet.

Instead, Rendi’s big contributions have been how she’s touched the hearts and minds of the players and been an inspiration, providing a life example that the baseball players will likely never forget.

All of this started in the middle of February, when Rendi, also a volleyball and basketball player at Central, went to bed on a Friday night with a little soreness in her neck.

She woke up the next morning with her neck so swollen it was almost as if another head was starting to grow.

Swift and sudden diagnosis

The previous Monday, Rendi said she had played one of her best basketball games of her career, scoring nine points and not coming off the floor once for the Vikings.

Rendi said she felt some stiffness, but like many assume when that’s the case, she just thought she might have slept on it wrong.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case.

“I woke up Saturday morning and my entire neck was swollen,” she said. “I looked in the mirror and I started to hyperventilate and I passed out a little bit.”

At that point, obviously Rendi and her family called their doctor, who advised them to go to Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital in Commerce Twp.

Once there, Rendi said doctors said it was simply a form of Strep throat and she almost went home with antibiotics to take.

But the family was suspicious something was seriously wrong, and after being directed by their doctor to the oncology department at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, sure enough there was.

Rendi found out that she likely had Classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and after further tests two days later on a Monday, it was found out for certain that’s what she had.

There was the obvious shock and sadness to hearing the news, but Rendi said there was another emotion that came across her when she found out the diagnosis: The determination of someone who was ready to fight.

“For my parents, it was really tough,” Rendi said. “But I knew it wasn’t going to change the outcome regardless of how upset I was going to get over it. It was kind of like ‘What do I need to do and how do I need to do it to move forward.’ ”

Rendi spent the next two weeks in the hospital to get the the swelling down in the neck and ultimately started the first of what would be six chemotherapy rounds.

Welcome to the “party” room

As word spread throughout the school, Rendi got so many texts and visitors to her room at Beaumont that it almost as if a scaled-down version of Mardi Gras was taking place nightly.

“There were so many people,” Rendi said. “My room was called the party room. It was really good. I never had to sit there saying ‘Why me?’ I always had people around me.”

Rendi missed a couple of weeks of school, but fortunately this didn’t turn out to be a huge deal because teachers were obviously understanding of the situation. She’s an honor student who’s a member of the National Honor Society, and being a senior, she already had her college plans in place since she decided to attend Michigan State University.

Support has still been constant from the school and everyone closest to her, as younger brother Connor shaved his head in honor of the fact she’s lost her hair through the chemotherapy and members of the baseball team continue to be encouraging voices.

One player in particular can fully relate to what Rendi is going through.

Central senior Zac Leimbach, a three-sport athlete who was the quarterback of the football team, a member of the basketball team and is one of the team’s best baseball players, lost his father Mike to cancer last year.

“I can be there for her because I understand it all,” Leimbach said. “People are going to be there for her. I think she needs to know that more than just people saying it. To not treat her differently because of what’s going on. I feel that some people give special treatment because of it. But they want to be treated the same. They don’t want it to be a big deal.”

The best kind of therapy

Rendi just went through her second round of chemotherapy, so there are four more to go. The last round will be in August, right before she heads up to Michigan State, and she is expected to make a full recovery once her treatments are over with.

She was diagnosed with Stage II Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, so it was detected early.

“If it hadn’t swelled up, there would’ve been no reason to go to the doctor,” Rendi said.

Rendi said her ordeal has caused some changes in her life, from not taking things for granted as much to actually changing her future career plans.

Originally, Rendi wanted to go into education, but has been so inspired by the work of nurses treating her that she now wants to go into nursing.

The big thing that hasn’t changed though is her desire to be around the baseball team and still keep the stats.

“I really enjoy baseball and watching them play,” Rendi said. “I still want to be part of a team. I want to be around people. It’s a lot easier to get my mind off of things.”

When he found out the news, Central head coach Mike Roffi called Rendi on her cell to offer support, telling her that “beauty is skin deep and don’t worry about it,” in reference to the fact she was going to be losing her hair.

Roffi also made sure to let Rendi know her role as team statistician was still very much available.

“I told her to use baseball as her therapy,” Roffi said. “It has been. She told me the best thing that happened to her was to keep on doing this. This is her therapy. It keeps her busy, she’s accepted by the program and she’s great at what she does. The kids love her.”

Central is ranked No. 8 in the state in Division 1, and it’s not presumptuous to think that Rendi’s story has given the Vikings an extra boost of motivation and contributed to their terrific start.

“She comes here every day fighting through her chemotherapy treatments and supporting the team,” Leimbach said. “She does our stat book every day and we appreciate it so much.”

Indeed, the imprint Rendi is leaving on the hearts and minds of everyone at Central is more visible than countless recordings of hits, runs and errors in the scorebook.

E-mail Keith Dunlap at keith.dunlap@oakpress.com; Twitter: @kd2578

Last Updated: 4/30/2012 11:25:44 AM EST

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