Queen of the day
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 19, 2012 1:46 PM
Valerie King smiles shortly after she was named -- and crowned -- homecoming queen at Princeton High School. The teenager is now "cancer-free" after being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma last November.
A photo of Valerie, posing in a formal dress, before she was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma.
Valerie is escorted onto the field by her father, Vince, during the homecoming ceremony at Princeton High School.
PRINCETON -- A name is called out over the loudspeakers that projects across the Princeton High School football field and the crowd rises.
Valerie King has just been named homecoming queen.
But the girl is numb as she faces a standing ovation -- as she accepts the crown.
Shock, she says, provokes a certain emotionlessness from her.
The moment takes her back nearly a year -- to the day doctors delivered much different news.
"At first, I didn't know how to feel," Valerie said. "It was just like when I got diagnosed."
The girl's mother, Kelly, also had the same reaction on both occasions.
"I was just tore up crying," she said.
The truth is, watching Valerie get crowned on that football field was a stark reminder of just how young her daughter still is -- of how hard her then-16-year-old was forced to fight after a biopsy revealed she had Stage 4 Ewing's sarcoma.
She used to lose herself on the hardwoods -- the teenager who said playing and coaching basketball is all she ever wanted to do.
But those dreams, thanks to the surgery, blood transfusions, chemotherapy and radiation it took to eliminate cancer from her body, have been interrupted.
"I think my surgery ... will probably keep me from playing. I can't even shoot," Valerie said. "It makes me mad."
Sure, she will still walk across the court when the Lady Bulldogs open their season -- if for no other reason than to support her friends and school.
But the aspirations that once drove her have been replaced.
"I want to be a nurse practitioner," Valerie said.
Her mother smiles.
"She wants to work with kids who have pediatric cancer."
A picture of a little girl is stuck to a glass jar that sits next to a cash register on Adam's Roadside BBQ's front counter.
And other local businesses, including the Spence Avenue Buddy's Jewelry, have similar displays.
Valerie never imagined she would be the focus of a fundraiser -- that her treatment would land her family in tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt.
And she never realized just how many people her story would touch.
"I still have cards I'll come across," she said. "I read them all."
A year ago she was just another teenage girl.
But as money continues to be raised -- and moments like the one that transpired a few Fridays ago inside Princeton High's Fred L. Bartholomew Jr. Athletic Complex continue to unfold -- it becomes more and more clear that, to many, Valerie has become something more.
"I looked up and everybody in the stands is standing up and clapping. Everybody. Not one person was sitting down," Valerie said. "It was very special. I really couldn't believe it."