The Show Must Go On

Over the past three years, cancer has taken so many opportunities and experiences away from Megan.  She was one of the starting setters on her 7th grade volleyball team that played for the regional championship, but was forced to quit two weeks into her 8th grade season when she was first diagnosed.  She missed the entire second semester of her 8th grade year, and even though home tutoring allowed her still graduate from 8th grade, she missed her 8th grade promotion ceremony.  Even though she loved participating in the 8th grade musical performance, her treatments did not allow her to audition for the high school musical during her freshman year.  She missed out on starting her freshman year with her classmates, and has been trying desperately to catch up both academically and socially ever since.  She missed her first Homecoming dance because she was in the hospital receiving a chemo treatment.  Being out of school for so long caused her to miss out on friendships, social events, activities, and so many other experiences that other students her age might take for granted as simply being a part of the “normal” teenage experience.  That’s the way cancer works…it picks out a victim and then sets out to slowly and methodically destroy that person’s life both mentally and physically.  The only way to survive is to display a steely determination that cancer will not win.  You have to keep moving forward and show cancer that no matter how hard it tries, it cannot stop you from making the most of each and every day.

Even though Megan has completed her 90 weeks of chemotherapy and her latest round of proton radiation, her body is far from recovered.  She still has many lingering physical effects from her brutal radiation, and her stamina is yet to recover.  Although she always gives it her best shot, she tires very easily and doesn’t do well when an activity goes on for a prolonged period of time.  Unless you have walked in her shoes, it is really impossible for any of us to understand the fatigue she experiences on a daily basis.  Although she is getting stronger by the day, she still has a long ways to go to completely recover from her body being ravaged by cancer and its archaic treatments.  However, as Megan showed this weekend, cancer will not stop her from living her life and pursuing her dreams.

Megan was so excited to land a role in the Coal City High School musical performance of “Les Miserable”, which was performed five times from March 8-11.  Although the rehearsals required long hours, which was very tough on her, the result was a performance for the ages.  I really cannot begin to explain the amazing quality of this musical performance.  The creative team led by Jack Micetich and all of the incredibly talented kids put on a weekend of performances that no one will ever forget.  It was such a pleasure to watch Megan get to take part in such a production.  During their final bows today, I will admit to getting a little emotional seeing her up on stage, because three years ago I wasn’t sure if I would ever see this day.  Here are some pictures from this weekend’s performances.

Megan was so excited that Kenzi came home for the weekend to watch her perform. It was so good to have her home for a couple of days.


Kenzi brought three of her college friends home with her to watch Megan.


Megan with Director Jack Micetich
Grandpa and Grandma Coope
Grandpa and Grandma Bugg
Uncle Todd and Gina
Megan was thrilled that Nurse Kathy and Nurse Laura made the long trip to come and watch her perform.

Now that the musical has ended, Megan will be gearing up for her first set of scans since she completed her proton radiation.  Megan underwent these radiation treatments to eliminate two tumors that had shown up in her lower spine.  On Friday, Megan will undergo both a PET and a CT scan, and then her doctors will also schedule an MRI for her soon after.  These results will let us know if Megan is now officially in remission again.  I cannot even imagine the anxiety Megan feels as she awaits these scans, but she is not letting it show.  After the final performance today, Megan went to the cast party for a little bit, but she was pretty exhausted, so she came home early.  She took a quick shower, and now she is relaxing on the couch watching American Idol with her kitten Willow.  Life it good.

For the past three years life hasn’t been easy for Megan, but no matter how tough things get, her determination, her positive attitude, and her infectious smile have never wavered.  Megan needs everyone on Team Megan to send positive thoughts to her starting at 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning.  Let’s hope next week’s post has good news to share!


Living In the Moment

For the past 38 months, I have watched Megan traverse this formidable three year battle against one of the most aggressive types of childhood cancer.  During her arduous journey, I continue to be amazed at her uncanny ability to live in the moment.  I was in the car with her yesterday and the topic of her upcoming scans was brought up, which led to us talking about her first 54 weeks of chemotherapy.  That 54 works was so brutal on her both physically and mentally.  To this day, I have no idea how she got through it, but when I mentioned that to her in the car, she said “I really don’t ever think about that.”  She then quickly changed the subject from her next set of scans to talking about the dance she was going to at the high school that night.  Then she started talking about joining the CCHS club, “Students Against Destructive Decisions” (SADD) and how she was working with the sponsor to organize a field trip for the group.  In a matter of five minutes, the topic started with her upcoming scans (the future); moved to a quick mention of her initial 54 week chemo treatment (the past); but she quickly changed the topic to what she was doing right now (living in the moment).  Even though she, of all kids, would have the right to bitterly dwell on the past, she chooses not to.  Even though she, of all kids, would have every right to obsess over the future, she chooses not to.  Instead, she is committed to making the most of each and every day.  I really believe her ability to live in the moment has been a big part of her successful battle against this beast.  As I have said many times, the physical aspect of fighting cancer can pale in comparison to the mental anguish it bares on its victims.  Cancer counts on the fact that it will not only break you down physically, but mentally as well, because once it wins the mental battle, it owns you.  Cancer will never own Megan, because she is too busy living life and fighting back.  She is living in the moment.

Speaking of living in the moment, Megan is still in the midst of preparing for this weekend’s performance of “Les Miserables”, which will take place in the Coal City High School Performing Arts Center from March 8-11.  She had rehearsal from 4-10:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday and then today she is rehearsing from noon until 8:00 p.m.  Following the conclusion of her radiation about a month ago, she picked up two more classes at school.  All of that combined with her fundraising efforts for childhood cancer, and trying to reconnect with friends has kept her pretty exhausted.  She comes home between her classes and takes a nap, and then sometimes takes another one before heading off to rehearsal.  She usually brings her pillow and blanket to musical rehearsal so she can catch a quick nap during the scenes she is not in.  However, the good news is that she is still getting stronger every day, and she is feeling better than she has in three years.  Considering what 90 weeks of chemotherapy, over 100 radiation treatments, and three surgeries have done to her body, it is going to take quite some time before she feels back to 100%.  I know her lack of stamina sometimes frustrates her, but she also sees the progress and knows she is getting better.  It’s just good to see her regaining some sense of normalcy in her life again.

We were all excited because Kenzi came home for the weekend from the University of Wisconsin.  She had not been home in five weeks, so it was really good to see her.  She and Megan had some time to reconnect as they already started working on our summer vacation plans 🙂  Kenzi also wanted to see Megan in her dress for the winter dance at CCHS that she went to with her friend Natalie.  Kenzi continues to balance her classes at UW with a part-time job at Panera that she recently picked up.  It really hit me this weekend that she definitely not a kid anymore, and instead has become a responsible young adult with such a bright future ahead.  We are so proud of her, and really pleased that she was able to come home this weekend.  She had to leave at noon today so she could make it back to campus for her 5:00 p.m. shift at Panera.  She is also coming home next weekend with three of her friends so they can watch Megan perform in the musical, so we will only be without her for a week.  Of course, while Kenzi was home, she had to reconnect with Willow 🙂


As I mentioned, Megan went to the winter dance on Saturday night at the high school, which is actually a “Dance-a-Thon” to raise money for childhood cancer research.  Megan was so excited that the high school administration and the students involved in the planning wanted to dedicate the money raised to Megan’s fundraising efforts with Luries Children’s Hospital.  The dance started at 6:00 p.m., but Megan and her friend Natalie went early to help set up.  Megan stayed for the entire dance and had a great time.  A huge thank you to all of the students and adults who came to support this important cause!!! Here are a few pictures of Megan just before she left for the dance.

Megan and her friend Natalie.

Megan continues to be very excited about the money she is raising to support Dr. Walterhouse’s research on childhood cancer at Luries Children’s Hospital.  She set a goal of raising $10,000, which would fund 6 months of research in Dr. Walterhouse’s lab, and thanks to the amazing generosity and support of everyone on “Team Megan”, she has already raised $8,450 after only two weeks!!!  Once she hits her goal of raising $10,000, she will go to Luries and personally present the check to Dr. Walterhouse.  Because childhood cancer research only receives less than 4% of Federal funding for all cancer research, these independent fundraising efforts are the only mechanism to support researchers like Dr. Walterhouse who are committed to finding a cure for Alvelolar Rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewings Sarcoma.  If you would like to help Megan’s effort to end childhood cancer, you can make a tax deductible donation at  As Megan has told many people, even $5 can make a huge difference towards ending this nightmare that so many kids are experiencing.  I know Megan will not rest until childhood cancer becomes a distant memory.

Megan continues to receive incredible support from everyone in her school system.  She went to the middle school on Wednesday to have lunch with Mrs. Ryan when she received a surprise from another staff member, Mrs. Walsh.  A student group she runs held an activity and decided to donate the funds they had raised to Megan’s charity.  Megan was so excited to receive a check made out to Luries Children’s Hospital for $412!!!  Here is a picture of Megan and Mrs. Walsh.  Thank you so much to Mrs. Walsh and all of the students of Coal City Middle School for helping to end childhood cancer.


Megan will have a very busy week as she prepares for show week with the musical.  We will have many family and friends coming to see her perform over the weekend, so it should be lots of fun.  After this weekend, we will know when Megan’s next set of scans will be, which will tell us if the radiation did it’s job and took care of the tumors in her back.  Cancer won’t like it, but until then, Megan will continue to live in the moment and make the most of every day.  Megan may have cancer, but cancer has never had her!  Until next week…


Fighting for Those Who Can’t

Throughout “Megan’s Journey”, our family has learned to savor the beautiful moments that present themselves each and every day.  Over the past three years, there have been times where we had to search very hard to find those beautiful moments, but we found that if we looked hard enough, they were always there.  Some of the most beautiful moments have come from the connections Megan has made with her fellow childhood cancer warriors from not just her hospital, but from all over the country and the world.  The magic of social media has allowed her to connect with childhood cancer fighters not only from the United States, but also from England and Australia.  During Megan’s really rough chemo treatments, Deb and I would try to provide all of the support we could to try and talk her through the accompanying pain, but try as we might, there were times we just were not enough.  It was at those times that she would text Kasey from San Diego or Mia from Kansas, and they would help to get Megan through the most difficult times.  Since Megan’s first 54 week chemo treatment ended, she has served in that capacity for other friends across the country and the world.  These kids share a common bond and appreciation for the battle that the rest of us could never understand.  They know first hand what it’s like to watch the chemo start to drip from the IV bag and know that the agonizing nausea is right around the corner…and that it’s going to last for five days.  They know what it’s like to experience “scanxiety” as they await each scan result knowing how high the stakes are.  They understand what it’s like to go into a panic if you feel any irregularity on your body, because you believe the beast has returned.  These kids understand each other in a very special way, because they are part of an exclusive club that no one wants to join.  That’s why Megan hurts so bad when she loses one of her friends to cancer.  That’s why a year later she still struggles with the loss of her friend Mia, because she lost a part of her emotional support.  That’s why she sheds a tear when cancer takes kids like precious Isaiah far too soon.  That’s why she sits in sad reflection every time she learns of a new child who has to go through what she has endured for the past three years.  It’s also why Megan is so motivated to do whatever it takes to end this nightmare for other kids.  It’s why her passion has become raising awareness for the need to increase funding for childhood cancer research.  She is living the motto of “If you don’t fight for what you want, don’t cry for what you’ve lost.”  Megan knows that our kids deserve better than we have been giving them, and she is determined to change things for the better, but she can’t do it alone.

As I stated in last week’s blog, Megan has connected with Dr. Walterhouse from Luries Children’s Hospital in Chicago, who is doing some very promising gene research that could be groundbreaking for kids fighting Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewing’s Sarcoma.  These are two of the fastest growing pediatric cancers, so finding a cure would be a huge medical breakthrough.  Megan has set a goal of raising $10,000 through her Circle of Friends page through Luries Hospital.  If she reaches her goal, that money will fund 6 months of Dr. Walterhouse’s research.  Coupled with her previous $9,000 donation she made to his lab last year, Megan’s efforts will have funded a full year of his research!!!  Megan finished setting up her page last weekend, and thanks to the generosity of everyone on “Team Megan, she has already raised $4,800, which puts her halfway to her goal.  When she reaches her final goal, she will going to Luries to personally present her donation to Dr. Walterhouse.  If you are interested in helping Megan reach her goal of raising $10,000 to help end childhood cancer, you can make an online tax deductible donation at As Megan likes to remind people, even a $5 donation can make a huge difference.  Megan sincerely thanks everyone for supporting her efforts to end the suffering for so many kids.

Speaking of raising money for childhood cancer, Megan was very excited to hear from Jenny Dinelli, who is a colleague of Deb’s from Reed-Custer School District.  Jenny taught a kindergarten student 3 years ago who was battling glioblastoma multiforme and after that she decided that she needed to do something to help end childhood cancer.  Out of this was born “Light Up Left for Cancer”, which is an amazing idea that raised $3,400 last year for the Rizzo Foundation.  This year, Jenny wants to donate the money raised to Megan’s fundraising efforts to support Dr. Walterhouse’s research!  Here is how it works.  Jenny purchases 350 bleacher seats for the Chicago Cubs baseball game on July 7th.  Individuals then email Jenny at with how many tickets they want and their t-shirt size.  The combined price for each ticket and a shirt is $92.88.  Each participant then makes a pledge to purchase the tickets and to make a donation to childhood cancer research using Megan’s fundraising page.  Everyone who participates gets a neon colored shirt to wear to the Cubs game and we all “Light Up Left”!  Last year’s group was featured on the jumbo-tron!!!  Thanks to Jenny for organizing this event to benefit childhood cancer, and I hope we see many “Team Megan” members on July 7 to cheer on the Cubs and stomp out childhood cancer!!!  Here is a picture of last year’s event.Light up Left for school2

Megan continues to keep a busy schedule as she is still going to school half-time and preparing for the high school musical performance of “Les Miserables” which shows from March 8-11.  On Friday, Megan had an appointment at the CDH clinic with Dr. Salvi, which was just a routine monthly check up.  Everything looked good, so now we wait until her next set of scans, which will most likely be the week of March 12.  Until then, we will take Megan’s cue and make the most of each and every day.  When cancer decided to make Megan it’s victim, it had no idea it was unleashing such a formidable opponent.  Megan will never give in to cancer, and she will never give up on her dream of ending this nightmare so that no kid will ever experience the mental and physical anguish that Megan and her friends have endured.  We just have to do better by our kids!!!


Our Kids Deserve Better

Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event for us to sit back and reflect on what is really important in life.  That event happened for our family on December 26, 2014 when we were told that Megan had Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma.  Since we received that devastating news, we have learned some valuable lessons about life.  We have discovered that there is nothing more important than family.  We have learned the importance of living in the moment and winning each day as it comes.  We have learned the importance of not waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.  We have also learned about the inherent good in so many kind and compassionate people who have reached out to support Megan during this arduous journey.  Megan’s cancer diagnosis is something that no child or family should ever have to endure, but the journey has caused us to re-prioritize our lives and focus on what is really important.  It’s too bad that it takes such an event for many of us to come to that realization.

Tragically, another of those catastrophic events occurred this week with the senseless deaths of 17 children in the Florida school shooting.  I don’t want to dwell on the politics of this issue, because it seems that everyone is doing that, which only leads to more divisiveness and no real solutions.  In trying to avoid the paralyzing politics, this tragedy caused me to reflect on the many areas of our society where we have to do better by our kids.  The lives of those 17 victims were invaluable and irreplaceable; just like the lives of the 1,800 children who die every single year from childhood cancer.  If we believe that children are our most valuable resource, and we believe that our children are our future, then we all have a responsibility to keep them safe from violence, disease, and any other danger to their well-being.  Our kids deserve more from the adults who are charged with protecting them.

As Megan has traveled her personal journey through cancer, she has become increasingly aware that our children are the forgotten victims of the disease.  While adult cancers receive the lion’s share of research funding by the Federal government, our kids are left with only 3.8% of that funding dedicated to researching the many forms of pediatric cancer.  That’s why our kids are being treated with chemo treatments that are over 20 years old.  It’s why many of the treatments our kids receive are actually adult treatments that were never intended for use on the fragile bodies of children.  Megan is tired of watching helplessly as her friends across the United States and the world continue to suffer and die due to a lack of effective and appropriate treatments.  Since she believes that the decision-makers are not looking out for her and her friends, she has decided to take matters into her own hands.  She has made it her passion to advocate for childhood cancer awareness and the desperate need for increased funding to support the research needed to develop new and effective treatments for childhood cancer.  Our kids have to stop dying!!!

Megan researched where she should focus her fundraising efforts, but she quickly became concerned about the administrative overhead that is inherent in many not-for-profit organizations.  She wanted 100% of the money she helped raise to go towards the direct research for cures for childhood cancer.  As a result of her research, she finally connected with Dr. Walterhouse at Luries Children’s Hospital in Chicago.  He is working on very promising gene research that could make a significant difference in the treatments for Alveloar Rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewings Sarcoma.  Megan has already delivered one check to him for $13,000, but she will not be satisfied until a cure is found and no more kids have to go through what she has endured.  Megan believes that no more children should live their lives under the terror of childhood cancer.

Today, Megan took another step forward in her fundraising efforts by setting up a “Circle of Friends” webpage through Luries Children’s Hospital.  Her personal page provides a safe and convenient online opportunity for supporters to donate money to her cause.  Each donation is fully tax deductible and 100% of each donation will go directly to support Dr. Walterhouse’s important research.  Megan is so excited to support childhood cancer research through her very own fundraising website.  I know she would appreciate anything her “Team Megan” supporters can do to help her end this nightmare for so many children.  In our country, 43 kids each day learn the devastating news that they have childhood cancer, and five children die each day from the disease, but if Megan has her way, that will soon change.  As Megan likes to say, “Together we can knock out childhood cancer”.  Here is a link to her Circle of Friends fundraising page.

Even though Kenzi is away in Madison for the second semester of her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, she and Megan still communicate everyday.  Kenzi sent Megan a Valentine’s Day gift, and even though she couldn’t be here in person, she FaceTimed Megan to give her the gift “in person”.  As you can see, Megan was pretty thrilled to get her own Bucky Badger stuffed animal 🙂

Kenzi also got me a ticket to a UW basketball game last week, and although it was a lot of driving in one evening, it was well worth spending an evening with her cheering the Badgers to an exciting victory over Purdue.  Here is a picture of us at the game and another where you can see the student section has stormed the court after the game.

Kenzi also recently took the initiative to apply for a job while at school, and she was quickly hired by Panera, which is also where her friend Ellyn works.  She had her first day of training this weekend, and will start working a couple days a week for the rest of the semester. Although we sure miss having Kenzi home with us, we could not be more proud of everything she is accomplishing in college.

File Feb 17, 12 29 58 PM

Megan continues to gain more strength and stamina the further she gets away from her last chemo treatment.  She has picked up two more classes at school, and is still going to musical rehearsal three to four times per week.  Tonight, she is going bowling and having a sleep-over with a couple of her friends, and last night she had the thrill of going to a ballet in Chicago with Kim Scerine, Jamie Frazier and Emma Frantini.  I’m not sure what Megan liked more, the ballet or all of the places they stopped for food 🙂  She was exhausted when she got home, but she said it was so much fun.  Here is a picture of Megan just before she left and another picture of the four of them at the ballet.

File Feb 18, 6 12 22 PM

File Feb 17, 8 12 41 PM

The pace will continue to pick up for Megan as the musical is only three weeks away, but she is intent on making the most of each and every day.  As she recently posted on one of her social media outlets, she has scans in a month, but she is not going to let it worry her because if she did, she would miss out on a month of living life to the fullest.  Megan will never let cancer do that to her.  Once again, if you want to help Megan end the nightmare of childhood cancer for all kids, please visit her personal fundraising page at and help her “Knock Out Childhood Cancer”.  Our kids deserve the best future we can give them, and that means a life where they don’t have to worry about the nightmare of childhood cancer.

Until next week…

File Feb 13, 4 26 13 PM


Winning the Mental Battle

Throughout ‘Megan’s Journey”, she has taught us the importance of living one day at a time.  Cancer can be so overwhelming, and part of the reason is because it is extremely difficult not to look ahead and be fearful of the future.  The internet is a cancer patient’s worst nightmare, because all of the daunting statistics are only a Google search away.  I know Megan has researched her odds, as have we, and the resulting information is very hard to stomach.  Over the past three years, Megan has connected with other childhood cancer patients from all over the world.  Sure…there have been some amazing success stories like Kasey, Tyler, and others, but Megan has also experienced the heartache of friends who have fought so valiantly and yet lost their battles with cancer.  The passing of Mia shook Megan’s foundation, and the recent passing of young Isaiah was heartbreaking.  With all of the information on cancer that Megan has digested, it would be so easy to see how she could be completely paralyzed by what the future holds for her.  It would so easy for her to curl up in her bed everyday asking “Why me?”.  It would be so easy for her to be bitter and resentful at the world for making her play the hand she has been dealt.  It would be understandable for her to just give in and let cancer have its way with her.  Unfortunately, this is what cancer is counting on when it invades the lives of its victims. It fully expects to overwhelm its opponents not just physically, but mentally as well, and as soon as cancer wins the mental battle, it has essentially won the war.  The key to Megan’s three year battle with cancer is that she has refused to let that happen.  She has never let cancer win the mental battle, because no matter how tough things have gotten…and there have been some really trying times…Megan has never stopped believing in her recovery.  She has never stopped believing that no matter how long it takes, she will stand victorious at the end of the day.

One of the keys to Megan’s incredible mental toughness and positive outlook has been her ability to focus on winning each day as it comes.  She has the uncanny skill of not worrying about tomorrow until tomorrow arrives.  Given the stakes, I really don’t know how she does it.  Recently, she has once again put that skill on display as she sets the example for the rest of our family to follow.

Megan completed her last 36 week chemo protocol in mid-October of 2017, which was aimed at addressing her relapse that occurred when doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in her left breast.  At the end of that treatment, she was scanned and unfortunately two small tumors showed up near the spinal cord in her lower back.  Her medical team decided to treat those tumors with yet another round of proton radiation, which Megan completed in mid-January of this year.

This past Thursday, Megan went to the CDH clinic for the first time since she completed her radiation treatment.  When we got there, Megan shared lots of hugs and laughs with the amazing medical professionals that have become such an important part of our family.  Nurse Suzy accessed Megan’s port, because every time Megan goes to the clinic, they check her blood counts.  Fortunately, Dr. Salvi said her counts all looked good.  He also conducted a thorough physical exam where he feels various points on her body to check for any tumors.  Once again, he said he did not feel anything and she looked great.  Although that was all great news, we all know that the real proof is in the scans.  Dr. Salvi said he wanted to wait until early March for her scans, because he wanted to give her back time to recover from the proton radiation treatments. Megan asked if she could get the scans right after her musical weekend, which ends on Sunday, March 11.  Dr. Salvi agreed…so now we wait.

Megan knows full well the high stakes of these upcoming scans, but as soon as she heard the scans would not happen until the week of March 12, she was moving on.  She immediately started joking around with Nurse Kathy, and she spent time talking with Allie, who is the Child-Life Specialist.  On the way home, she wanted to go through a drive through and grab some lunch because she was in a hurry to get back to her class at the high school.  She was making weekend plans with her friends, and she even started talking to me about where she wanted to go to college!  She was living in the moment, because she was not about to give cancer the pleasure of making her live in fear of her upcoming scans.  Until the day of her scans, I am convinced she will make the most of each day.  She will live one day at a time, and she will not worry about tomorrow until it gets here.  Cancer has to be getting so frustrated with her!!!

This weekend, Megan’s baking addiction returned as she was really wanting to use a donut baking pan that she got recently.  She found a recipe for blueberry donuts with a lemon glaze, and as the designated taste tester (I happily volunteered), I can tell you they were awesome.  Here she is with the finished product.

File Feb 10, 4 09 41 PM

After that, she found a bag of Valentine Day M&M’s in our pantry, so she set about making some yummy cookies.  Once again, as the taste tester, I gave them my enthusiastic approval!

File Feb 10, 4 19 51 PM

File Feb 10, 4 17 58 PM

Megan has musical rehearsal tonight from 5:30-8:30 p.m., but before she headed off to rehearsal, she had three of her friends come over to hang out with her for a couple hours.  They went down to the basement for a big ping pong extravaganza, ate some pizza, and then happily headed out to rehearsal.  It is so good to see Megan recovering that “normal” teenage life that cancer keeps trying to steal away from her.

Now the challenge for the rest of us is to follow Megan’s lead and try not to worry about her upcoming scans until the time comes.  We will continue to focus on living each day to the fullest, and we will continue to cherish every moment our family spends together.  Cancer has a way of putting your life back in perspective, and reminding you of what is really important.

A Super Sunday

Megan continues the process of trying to once again pick up the pieces and regain her life after completing yet another round of proton radiation.  Over the past three years, Megan has been through 90 weeks of chemotherapy, over 100 proton and traditional radiation treatments, three surgeries, and so many awful side effects that are too numerous to mention in this post.  After completing this last series of proton radiation treatments to address yet another cancer relapse in her back, Megan is more motivated than ever to become a “normal” high school student.  She knows that she still has her scans coming in late February to determine if the proton radiation was successful, but she is not letting the “scanxiety” slow her down.  She is in a good place right now, and I have never seen her more determined.  I know she is drawing strength from other childhood cancer warriors like Mia, Isaiah, Ellie, Sophia, Tyler and so many others.  She continues to advocate for childhood cancer awareness and the severe lack of funding for effective research to eradicate this dreaded beast.  She is also determined to become an example to others and show them that even though they may have cancer, cancer doesn’t have to have them. You have to wake up every single day with the attitude that you will win, because if cancer senses any weakness, it will pounce.  In this battle, attitude is everything.

Megan continues to stay busy between school and rehearsing for the Coal City High School musical performance of “Les Miserables”, which opens on March 8.  Although she still tires easily, and is still experiencing discomfort from radiation in her back, she has not missed a day of school or a musical rehearsal.  In fact, I was surprised when I received a call from Megan’s school counselor on Thursday afternoon.  Megan has really not been a full time student since she was diagnosed as an 8th grader in January of 2015.  She has tried to pick up a class here and there as her health allowed, but she is far behind her peers in school.  Her focus has been on her health, because she always knew school would be there when she was ready.  Knowing that she had proton radiation treatments starting in early January, she only took two classes at CCHS this semester.  On Thursday, Megan took it upon herself to go see her school counselor and find out what she had to do to graduate with her class.  Her counselor reminded her that it would be a lot of work and the school did not want to stress her or cause unnecessary anxiety.  Megan insisted she wanted to do it, so we met on Friday to map out a plan.  Megan will be very busy over the next year and half, but it is her decision and she is motivated to make it happen.  Knowing what she has accomplished to date, I would never sell her short.  As long as her health allows it, she will make it happen.  I think it is yet another way for her to send a powerful message to cancer that she will not let it take her high school graduation away from her.  It also gives her another goal to focus on, which helps to keep her mind off the daily grind of fighting this ridiculous disease.

One of our family traditions is to hold a Super Bowl party that Uncle Todd and Gina always attend.  We kind of have an open door policy, so many times Kenzi and Megan’s friends will also stop by for some food and fun.  The girls and Uncle Todd usually collaborate on a theme, and then I get all of the food ready for the big event.  This year, the they decided on a Mexican theme, so we had chicken tinga, barbacoa, and all the fixings.  Of course, we also had way too many desserts including three kinds of ice cream, frosted brownies, dump cake, Gina’s famous peanut butter football cookies, and Megan even whipped up some awesome cake pops.

File Feb 05, 5 41 04 AM
Uncle Todd, Gina and the girls.
File Feb 04, 6 27 19 PM
Kenzi and Megan with some of their friends at the Super Bowl party.

All of the food and fellowship was fantastic, but the highlight of the event was having Kenzi home!  Kenzi’s winter break from the University of Wisconsin ended two weeks ago, but since we always have so much fun at our Super Bowl party, she planned to come home.  Since she doesn’t have class until noon on Monday, she can leave early in the morning and be back in time for all of her classes.  As an added bonus, she brought her friend Ellyn with her to stay with us for the weekend.  Kenzi met Ellyn on her dorm floor and they hit it off right away.  In fact, Ellyn is one of three other girls Kenzi will be living with in an apartment next year.  It’s funny because when Kenzi was describing Ellyn to us, she said that Ellyn and Megan were basically the same person 🙂  So obviously, Megan had a great time having both her sister and her alter ego with us for the weekend.

File Feb 04, 6 28 15 PM
Kenzi’s friend Ellyn with both girls.

Megan goes back to the CDH Clinic on Thursday morning for an appointment with her oncologist.  They will check her blood counts and give her a physical examination to check for any tumor growth.  We will then discuss when Megan’s scans will be scheduled, which will determine if the proton radiation did its job on her back.  It will be an anxious few weeks as we wait for the scans and the results, but I know Megan will not let the uncertainty dominate her life.  Instead, she will continue to live each day to the fullest.  She will continue to advocate for childhood cancer awareness.  She will continue to raise funds for and bring attention to the lack of funding for childhood cancer research.  She will continue to honor all victims of childhood cancer by bringing the fight to cancer instead of waiting for cancer to bring it to her.  She will continue to fight as she is determined to recover the normal teenage life cancer keeps trying to take from her.  She will never let cancer define her life.

Until next week…

File Feb 04, 6 51 10 AM

The Greater Good

After completing her latest proton radiation treatment aimed at eradicating the two tumors in her lower back, Megan continues to work at recapturing some sense of normalcy.  She is attending school every afternoon, and still participating in the musical rehearsals for the Coal City High School performance of “Les Mis”, which will take place on March 8-11.  Our high school also hosted the boys and girls conference basketball tournaments last week, and Megan went to watch the games with me every night.  She also was an active participant in a fundraising event for the musical, and she went to her job at the Broadway Dance Studio on Thursday night.  Although she is still fighting some of the residual effects of her recent radiations treatments, she is determined to regain that normal teenage life she has been desperately seeking since her diagnosis three years ago.  Even though Megan is fighting to regain her life, she has not forgotten her greatest passion, which is fighting to raise awareness and funding for all of the kids across the world who are fighting this battle with her.  Megan is so determined to help find a cure for this dreaded disease, and considering what she has accomplished to date, she just might do it.

Megan has spent many hours researching various cancer support organizations, but one of her frustrations has been learning how much of every dollar raised goes to administrative costs as opposed to directly benefiting childhood cancer research.  As a result, she has connected with Dr. Walterhouse at Luries Children’s Hospital in Chicago who is conducting some very promising research on childhood cancer.  After communicating with him, Megan has set up a way to directly fund his research.  By doing this, every single dollar she raises goes directly to support his research without any overhead costs.  On October 22, Megan delivered her first fundraising check directly to Dr. Walterhouse in the amount of $9,022.  She was so thrilled when Dr. Walterhouse informed her that her donation would fund six months of research in his lab!!!  Hearing that news only further motivated her to continue her efforts to help find a cure so that no more kids would have to go through what she has experienced during her three year battle.

Megan’s successes at raising awareness and funding for childhood cancer would not have been possible without the generous support of so many of her “Team Megan” followers.  Since childhood cancer only receives 3.8% of federal funding for cancer research, every single dollar raised is so valuable.  There have been other kids who have raised money and sent it to her.  At Christmas, a group of people donated to childhood cancer research instead of buying their usual gifts for one another.  Our local schools have conducted multiple fundraisers to help her cause.  Complete strangers have sent her checks made out to Luries Children’s Hospital in Megan’s name to help fund this important research.  It has really been humbling and amazing to see the outpouring of support and compassion for these amazing kids who are fighting for their lives.

A few months ago, one of the teachers at Megan’s school, Mrs. Malsky, reached out to us on behalf of the “Wish Upon A Star” Foundation in Joliet.  They are a fantastic organization that raises money to grant wishes to children impacted by cancer or other illnesses.  Mrs. Malsky said the organization wanted to do something for Megan.  Instead of using the wish for her own benefit, Megan decided to see if they would make a donation in her name to Dr. Walterhouse’s research.  On Saturday night, we attended the “Wish Upon a Star” annual fundraising event in Joliet where Megan was presented as their wish recipient.  At the beginning of their event, they called Megan up to the stage where she gave a moving speech to advocate for childhood cancer and thank the foundation for their donation.  Megan was shocked when they presented a check in her name to Luries Children’s Hospital in the amount of $5,000!!!  So many people came up to her after her speech to tell her how impressed they were that she would think of others instead of herself.  Here is a video of Megan’s acceptance speech and a couple pictures of the event.  We could not thank the “Wish Upon A Star” Foundation enough for the generous donation in Megan’s name to help fund childhood cancer research.

File Jan 27, 9 21 07 PM
Megan with Mrs. Malsky who helped to make this donation happen.
File Jan 27, 9 19 11 PM
Megan with Bob Bato, who is the Executive Director of the Joliet chapter of “Wish Upon a Star”.

File Jan 27, 9 20 23 PM

Megan has some other fundraising activities going on, because once she reaches $10,000, she will meet Dr. Walterhouse at Luries for a formal presentation.  As Dr. Walterhouse has told Megan, because childhood cancer research receives such limited funding when compared to other types of cancer (Don’t get me started on this topic…grrrrrr!!!), donations like Megan’s make a huge difference to the viability and continuation of childhood cancer research projects.  Maybe…just maybe…a cure is coming.  For the sake of our kids, we can only hope.

After her four week winter break, Kenzi went back to the University of Wisconsin last weekend.  The girls seemed to have gotten closer and closer while Kenzi was home, so her going back to school was a blow to Megan and our family.  Although we are so excited about Kenzi being in Madison at such a dynamic university, we definitely miss having her with us at home. Here is a picture of the sister hug that happened just before Kenzi headed out the door.

File Jan 25, 12 24 59 PM

Today is Kenzi’s 19th birthday.  I’m not sure where the time goes, but in the blink of an eye she has grown from a toddler to a young adult.  We could not be more proud of the person she has become.  Happy Birthday Kenzi!!!

File Jan 28, 8 47 40 PM

Sisters obviously know best, because Megan continues to get so much pleasure from her new kitten that Kenzi got for her.  Willow sleeps with Megan most every night, and she admits that the kitten has helped her with some of the anxiety she experiences as a childhood cancer survivor.  Kenzi knew just what Megan needed to help her through the rough times.  Speaking of the rough times, this week marked the one year anniversary of the tragic passing of Megan’s good friend Mia.  Mia was such an important part of Megan’s life, and it is so unfair that such a dynamic young lady fell victim to this dreaded disease.  Megan had a really rough time on the evening of the anniversary of Mia’s passing.  We have to do better for our kids!!!  Willow was sure helpful on that night.

File Jan 25, 12 23 23 PM Even though Willow seems awfully connected to Megan, she has definitely not forgotten her other members of her menagerie 🙂

The battle continues…