Pretty Perfect: After Debbie Brown’s surgery, she had to quit bowling — until she switched to left-handed

There was hugging, and a few tears.

It was almost perfect.

Youngsville’s Debbie Brown loves the sport of bowling, plain and simple, but it’s so much more than that.

“I guess just being with and around all the other women (bowlers),” she said. “We all have such a great time.”

So when she wasn’t able to bowl last year, it wasn’t as meaningful.

“I sat there watching everyone else,” said Brown.

She had cancer removed from her right arm; due to the amount of muscle and tissue that was removed, she can only lift up to five pounds with her right arm.

Her bowling arm.

She’s so greatful the cancer was removed, “and I still have my arm,” she said.

“One of the first things I thought of was, how am I going to be able to pick up my granddaughter,” she said.

Bowling didn’t necessarily come to mind until she missed it more and more with each passing week. She had bowled in a league with her mother and sister, something she wanted to continue to do.

After bowling right-handed for 25 years in the Ladies Church League at Valley Bowling Center, Brown is now a left-handed bowler.

“You don’t realize how much you use that dominant hand until you can’t use it,” said Brown, who has averaged more than 40 pins less bowling left-handed than two years ago right-handed, and about 60 pins less than her best year.

In other words, this left-handed bowler, not lefty, mind you, but left-handed bowler, averages 95 per game.

“Those first four or five weeks, I bowled more balls in the gutter than went straight,” said Brown.

She continues to reach for the ball with her right hand, until her brain kicks into gear that she won’t be able to lift it with the arm. And bowling left-handed, she said, doesn’t feel much more comfortable now than she did when she first tried it last spring.

She doesn’t lay claim to being the best lefty bowler out of just 22 bowlers in the league, since there are now four lefties.

“But I’m doing fine,” she said. “I had a really hard time at first – it’s a horribly ugly scar (on my right arm). Until one day one of my customers said, ‘Your friends love you for who you are and we don’t care about that scar.’

“My league is so supportive,” she said. “No one wants to be the one that drops the team (score) down.”

The hugs and high-fives, and emotions of what Brown has overcome, came last week when the new lefty rolled her best game and series so far – a 190 game and 399 series. It wasn’t about the scores. It was just another reason to celebrate what Debbie has overcome.

“Debbie and I battled a lot in her growing up years as we are both very stubborn people, but in the case of her battling the cancer it has paid off as well as in her bowling,” said her mother, JoAnn Lauffenburger. “After her surgery I wasn’t sure how she was going to do, but her sister (Patti DiPenti) had a chat with her one day and, after that, nothing has stopped her. Patti has been there for her sister through it all and I think that has been a great learning experience for both of them. They truly understand sisterly love now. As a family, it has made us all much more aware of how quickly things can happen and I think it has brought us even closer than we were.

“…Others in our league have battled and are battling it,” said Lauffenburger. “We are a very close-knit group of ladies that not only bowl together but care for one another, too. We’re there to bowl and have fun and that’s exactly what we do, but there is the serious side to us, too.”

The bowling is one thing.

“(Debbie) told me that if this story helps even one person to maybe push themselves a little harder and fight the fight than she will be very happy,” said Lauffenburger.

Better than a perfect game.