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Whitestone’s Lippert fights through cancer

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Corinne Lippert remembers the dates by heart. She can recite each one with the precision of a computer.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget them,” the Whitestone resident and senior on the Bronx High School of Science softball team said.

On June 16, she went to the doctor with a lump on her neck and had a biopsy performed. Originally, she was told it was a cyst, but it didn’t go away. On June 19, the test results came back and the news was not good. Lippert had Hodgkins lymphoma — a cancer of the immune system. It was stage 4B, meaning it involved a major organ. In Lippert’s case it was two: along with the one on her neck, she had tumors on her lungs and heart.

Then those dates came again, fast and furious. On June 30, she began chemotherapy at Schneider Children’s Hospital. Lippert did five cycles of chemo, ending Oct. 6. Right away, she started with the second part of the treatment process: radiation. That finished up Nov. 25 and doctors pronounced her to be in remission, though she won’t be declared completely cancer-free for another five years.

Through it all, there was one date that stood out above all the rest: Feb. 9 — softball tryouts at Bronx Science.

Lippert, 18, was home-schooled the first half of the year and she returned Feb. 3. Nothing was going to stop her from playing her senior season.

“It makes me feel like I’m normal,” Lippert said of softball.

You see, sports are in Lippert’s family. Her father, Keith Sr., has worked with the Queens-based youth program Dwarf-Giraffe for more than 10 years. Her older brother, Keith Jr., 20, played hockey at St. Francis Prep and now for SUNY Rochester. Her younger brother, Travis, plays freshman baseball at Prep and varsity hockey. Corinne has been playing softball since she was 5.

“All sports have been a big thing in her life,” said Keith Sr.

Lippert really shouldn’t be playing softball this year. She’s still on medication, she has bone pain in her legs and every day when she gets home she’s exhausted.

“My doctor said I couldn’t go to gym class, but I was like, ‘No, I have to play softball!’” she said.

And she is. Lippert isn’t Bronx Science’s best player, but she’s one of the team leaders and has been an incredible source of inspiration for her teammates.

“She’s made such an impact after overcoming everything,” junior shortstop Mackenzie Charter said. “Her dedication to the team is amazing.”

Charter remembers last Thursday when Lippert had to leave school early for a long doctor’s appointment. She sent an e-mail to Coach Tom Morris, saying that she probably wouldn’t make it to practice. But Lippert was there — early.

“She was there before I got there,” Morris said.

Added Charter: “I know I certainly wouldn’t have done that.”

Morris says Lippert is one of the players on the team that he knows he can depend on. Her softball knowledge, he said, allows him to put her into games in key situations. She plays a steady third base and never makes a mistake running the bases. More than that, though, Lippert has been a great example to her teammates.

“She has such a great attitude,” Morris said. “She’s the first one to ask for extra work. She has a heart of gold.”

A city firefighter, Keith Sr. marvels at how his daughter has reacted in the face of such a scary situation. On July 4, Lippert had an allergic reaction to the chemo and things didn’t look good — “a near-death experience,” Keith Sr. said. It was supposed to be a quick, outpatient procedure on a holiday, but it turned into a 15-hour ordeal at Schneider on Long Island. The second time around, with a new IV drip, she was fine.

“She battled, but you’d never know she went through it,” he said. “She never cried, she never complained. … Everything she’s had to face, she’s faced. I don’t know if I could do it.”

One of the toughest things for Lippert was losing her hair. It was the first question she asked doctors when she was diagnosed. The answer was yes. At the time, Lippert’s long, light brown locks extended all the way down to her lower back. So, she went and got it cut to shoulder-length to ease the transition.

“I had a wig — I never wore it,” Lippert said. “That wasn’t me. I wasn’t going to cover it up.”

Lippert will graduate from Bronx Science in June and plans to attend Queens College in the fall on a Macaulay Honors Scholarship. With that, she gets free tuition for all four years, a laptop and the opportunity to study abroad — for free — for a semester. All of that is contingent upon her maintaining a 3.5 grade point average, which shouldn’t be a problem for the excellent student.

She did want to go away to school, but Lippert still needs to get blood work every month and a CT scan every three months until doctors say she’s completely cancer-free. She’s not quite sure what she wants to do after college yet, but her dad has the perfect occupation.

“I think she would make a great lawyer,” Keith Sr. said, “because she can debate the [heck] out of you.”

Just ask anyone who told Lippert she shouldn’t play softball this season.

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