Maryland teen refuses to let cancer upstage her
Sunday, August 7, 2011
GAMBRILLS, Md. (AP) — Madeleine Raley wasn't going to let a little thing like cancer get her down.
So, when she was diagnosed with the disease late this winter, she didn't tell many people. She missed only two days of school for two surgeries. The 18-year-old South River High School graduate even auditioned and got the lead role in a musical, despite not having her full voice back.
"I didn't milk it for attention. I didn't break down. Everybody has a problem, and this was my problem," said Madeleine, who plays Pistache in The Talent Machine Company's "Can-Can," which opens Friday at St. John's College.
"I was embarrassed to tell people this was affecting me because there's a lot worse things going on in the world," said Madeleine, who lives in Gambrills.
Most people learned Madeleine had thyroid cancer only when she changed her status on Facebook last week to read: officially cancer-free. She was told there was no evidence of the disease last week, following the removal of her thyroid gland and a round of radiation. She had to be in isolation for 48 hours after the treatment. She viewed it as a good time to get in some reading.
Madeleine will have to take medication for the rest of her life. The only sign of her diagnosis is a slight scar across part of her throat. Her singing isn't up to par yet, but her part in "Can-Can" doesn't require her natural soprano voice. For it, she sings in an alto range.
"Can-Can" director Lea Capps, whose daughter Sammi is Madeleine's best friend, said Madeleine could have taken an easier route and been an ensemble dancer in "Can-Can." But the teen said she could handle the lead. And Capps believed her.
Madeleine's parents, Rich and Gina Raley, weren't surprised. "She takes whatever she's given and goes with it," Gina said. "She takes it much better than I would. I was a wreck."
Rich's attitude toward the diagnosis mirrored his youngest daughter's approach. "For me, when you're in the battle, there's no time to be sentimental," he said.
Both parents are helping out with "Can-Can" - Rich on the set and Gina with Madeleine's costume - so they've gotten to watch her progress on stage firsthand.
Madeleine was sick this past winter, as she was every winter. Only this time the swelling in her throat didn't go away.
After undergoing tests, she got the cancer diagnosis by phone, while she was at her job at a day-care center. "I said, 'OK,' put down the phone, and went back to work," said Madeleine. "I didn't want to think about it."
She couldn't avoid the subject once surgery and radiation were scheduled, but she soldiered on. She was operated on in April and the radiation was done earlier this month. Madeleine said the experience changed her - for the better.
"You get what's important," she said. "You don't get upset about little things. Life is about the people and relationships you build."
The hardest part was losing her voice for a week, and then not being able to sing for eight to 10 weeks. "It's scary," she said. "You don't know if it's going to come back."
Madeleine's been doing two shows a year with Talent Machine since the fourth grade, so she wasn't about to miss "Can-Can" before heading off to college. She'll be attending St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
"The world is beautiful and it's just about finding your place in it," Madeleine said. "Cancer takes the blinders off."
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/