Megan will be celebrating her 18th birthday on Tuesday, April 30! Of course, any child celebrating his/her 18th birthday is a landmark occasion, but 18 years old seems a little different with Megan. When I look back at the past four and half years and everything Megan has overcome, it is nearly a miracle that she is still here with us. Yet here she is, still defying nearly insurmountable odds, to celebrate turning 18.
When Megan was first diagnosed, I voraciously read everything I could find online regarding Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma…and what I learned was sobering to say the least. When Megan was first diagnosed on December 30, 2014, her cancer had already reached Stage 4, which meant it had metastasized throughout her body. Her two veteran oncologists told us she had one of the worst cases of ARMS they had ever encountered. The five year survival rates for kids with Stage 4 ARMS is about 20%, and the positive results tend to be skewed toward kids who contract the disease between ages 1-9. Since Megan was 13 at her diagnosis, it was likely that her five year survival prognosis was less than 20%. Once Megan completed her 54 weeks of treatment, it took about a year before she had her first relapse. Once an ARMS patient relapses, that survival rate falls to about 5%. To say the odds were stacked against Megan was an understatement, but fortunately, those numbers meant nothing to Megan, and I firmly believe the way she attacked her disease is the reason she is still here with us on her 18th birthday with no signs of slowing down.
Throughout her treatment, Megan never bought into the statistics. To her, everyone reacts differently, so the numbers didn’t mean anything. To Megan, those numbers can’t measure someone’s will to win. Those numbers can’t measure someone’s belief in themselves. Those numbers can’t measure the impact that overwhelming love and support can have on a person. Megan refused to let the statistics define her. Instead, she held steadfastly to her belief that she was going to win, and as a result, here she is getting ready to celebrate a landmark birthday. Her positive attitude and outlook on life is something I will always strive towards, but wonder if I can ever achieve. Megan has become my motivation and my inspiration. We could not be any more proud of her.
This is actually a week of celebrations for our family. Today, we drove down to Grandpa and Grandma Bugg’s farm to celebrate Grandpa Bugg’s 80th birthday. Our immediate and extended family all met Grandpa and Grandma at church in Assumption this morning and then went to the farm for the celebration. Our family is so fortunate to have such an incredible person and role model as Grandpa Bugg. His unconditional love and support for our family is so appreciated. Kenzi and Megan love him so much, so Kenzi was upset that she couldn’t be with us today, but she is getting ready for her last week of school and final exams, so the six hour drive one way for her would have been tough today. However, through the magic of Facetime, she was able to be there and wish her Grandpa a Happy Birthday. Grandpa’s birthday is on April 29; Megan’s is on April 30; and Uncle Todd’s birthday is on May 1, so we had multiple reasons to celebrate. Here are a few pictures from today.
On Wednesday morning, Megan will be in Chicago to be honored by the American Red Cross at their Hero Awards Breakfast. The Chicagoland Red Cross gives Hero Awards in 11 different categories, and Megan will be receiving the Youth Hero Award in honor of the more than $165,000 she has raised to support childhood cancer research. She will be giving a short acceptance speech in front of 1000 people, but she is ready to go. To her, this is just one more opportunity to spread her message of childhood cancer awareness and the need for more funding to support promising research. She is determined to fight until no more kids have to go through what she has experienced for the past four and a half years. It should be an exciting morning on Wednesday.
On Friday evening, Deb and I had a meeting to attend, so Megan was going to be by herself for a few hours. She called her friend Kim Scerine and talked her into going out for supper and doing a little shopping. Of course, anytime Megan is shopping in Joliet, she can’t help but stop and see the puppies to give them some loving. I’m getting more and more worried that someday she might come home with one of these puppies! From the look on her face, I think she would have brought both of these home 🙂
Speaking of animals, Megan continues to get so much love and comfort from her pets. Whenever she is having a rough time, it’s like her pets know it and they shower her with affection. Throughout Megan’s journey, I have seen firsthand the healing power that animals possess. When Megan was in the hospital and in complete misery from chemotherapy, a therapy dog would pay her a visit, and for that 20 minutes, the pain seemed to get pushed to the background. The same is true with her pets at home. They seem to know when she needs them, and they never fail her. The connection she has with them is incredible.
It’s going to be a week of celebrations in the Bugg home! Megan’s next appointment with her oncologists is on Monday, May 6, but we will do our best not to think about that until the time comes. Megan has taught us all the importance of living in the moment and never taking a single day for granted. This week, we plan to salute Megan as she continues to defy all of the odds by celebrating her 18th birthday. Happy Birthday Megan!!!