Achievements Worth Celebrating

This was week three of Megan’s latest chemotherapy protocol, which means her first cycle is now complete.  During her first week of treatment, she received two different chemotherapy infusions, and she actually handled them both fairly well.  However, the two additional treatments she received in week three really knocked her down.  Her reaction was sadly reminiscent of how she reacted to her very first 54 week treatment back in 2015.  It was getting to the point where we were starting to worry whether or not she would be able to participate in her graduation celebration that we had planned for Saturday, June 22.  We had scheduled her graduation party well before she was diagnosed with her latest relapse, so instead of canceling the event, we decided to roll the dice knowing that Megan usually finds a way to make sure cancer doesn’t win.  Thankfully, this particular chemotherapy schedule gives her a break from treatment in week three to give her body time to recover.  As usual, Megan’s determination started to shine through late in the week as she really turned the corner.  By Friday, we knew that she would be full go for her celebration.

The purpose of most high school graduation celebrations are pretty simple and to the point by taking time to look back on the accomplishments of 13 years of school which culminated in graduating from high school.  However, given Megan’s history, her celebration was a little different.  Starting with her original diagnosis of Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma on December 30, 2014, Megan never was able to attend a full year of high school.  The physical demands of her original 54 weeks of treatment, and then the subsequent chemotherapy and radiation treatments from her next three relapses, caused her to have a very nontraditional high school experience.  She was unable to participate in high school activities and unfortunately, she lost touch with many of her friends and missed most of the traditional rites of passage that come with being a high school student.  Although she had quite the atypical high school experience, she has been anything but dormant and inactive during her four and half year battle.  So instead of using her graduation party to solely recognize her high school achievements, we made it a point to use this opportunity to celebrate all of the other incredible things she has accomplished during her journey.

As followers of this blog know, Megan has overcome a physical and mental battle that would have long ago caused most adults to wave the white flag in surrender.  There have been so many times in the past, and quite recently, that I marvel at how she keeps fighting so hard against this dreaded beast.  Obviously, Megan has expended tremendous effort and it would be understandable if she had become a little self-centered as she was forced to focus so hard on her personal battle.  However, Megan has done exactly the opposite as she has become a passionate and powerful voice for all kids who are fighting childhood cancer.  Her life’s goal has become two-fold:  first, she is more determined than ever to win her own fight, but second, she is determined that no more kids have to go through what she has experienced.  She wants to put an end to childhood cancer, and I know she will never stop being a motivated advocate against the disease.  Over the past four years, Megan has raised well over $200,000 to support research efforts to fight childhood cancer.  She has worked with Ivory Ella to design a line of merchandise with the goal of raising money and awareness for childhood cancer.  She has been in front of the Illinois House of Representatives to help pass a House Resolution aimed at encouraging the Federal Government to increase their current paltry investment in childhood cancer research.  She has traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in Curefest where she was a featured speaker in front of the Capital Building.  She has met personally with all of her local Federal and State legislators to advocate for more funding to support effective childhood cancer research.  She has been the keynote speaker for the Cal’s Angels annual fundraiser and been chosen as one of the Grundy County “Women of Distinction” for her advocacy efforts.  She has also connected with kids from all of the world who look to her for support and guidance as they fight their own battles with this awful disease.  These are just a few of the many accomplishments we tried to highlight and celebrate at Megan’s graduation party on Saturday.  As someone wrote on a card to her,

“Megan, you are an advocate for some, but an inspiration to many.”

We had the perfect day, and although I wasn’t able to capture everything, hopefully these few pictures will give you some idea of how special this day was to Megan and our family.

Kenzi was helping Megan with her hair prior to the start of the party. Chemotherapy is already starting to impact her, as she is starting to lose her hair. When I asked Megan about it, she said that at this point, she didn’t even care. I think she is ready to wear her bald head as a badge of courage. However, in the meantime, it was sweet to have her sister there to help her.
We got Megan’s cake at K&W Bakery in Coal City, and it was so good!!! Also, you can see just a few of the over 100 cupcakes that Aunt Tami generously made. Megan’s favorite was the almond flavor, but they were all awesome.
Megan with Kenzi and Makenna Emerson. As always, Makenna was so helpful getting ready for the party.
Megan with her middle school volleyball coach, Pam McMurtrey who has remained such a great supporter of Megan’s.
It was so nice of Jerry Cougill to travel all the way from Elkhart, Indiana to be at Megan’s party. His wife Kay was unable to come, but we know we will catch up with them at a later date. The girls love the Cougills and were so excited to see “Uncle” Jerry.

These are a few of Megan’s friends who stopped by to see her.  Megan was excited to see all of them.

Readers of this blog may remember little Ellie.  When Megan was receiving her treatments, Ellie was sadly diagnosed with ARMS a little after Megan’s initial diagnosis.  Since Ellie and Megan both received treatment at CDH, they connected early and have stayed in touch ever since.  During overnight stays at the hospital, Megan would go visit with Ellie and her mom Tara, and the girls just developed a special bond.  Megan was thrilled when Ellie and her family all made the trip down from Wheaton to come to her party.  We all love little Ellie and we are so happy that she is in remission!!!

While at CDH, Megan also connected with another teenage cancer fighter names Olivia. Megan was so touched when Olivia’s parents made the long trip down to see her. Her parents let Megan know that Olivia was on a vacation with a friend, but if she were home, she definitely would have attended. Once again, Olivia is another success story as she is in remission!!!

The girls loved it when Megan McIlvane stopped by with her new baby girls 🙂

It was so nice of Senator Rezin to stop by to congratulate Megan. Throughout Megan’s Journey, she has been a constant source of support not only to Megan, but to her cause of raising awareness for childhood cancer.

Megan was so happy that Aunt Janet and Cousin Carly traveled in from Connecticut for her party and to stay with us for a few days.

Cousin Sally provided all of the food as she is a professional caterer. Megan wanted a Mexican fiesta theme and Sally came through with an awesome spread.
The Bugg side of the family was well represented at the party, but I did miss getting a picture of Grandma Bugg, Uncle Matt and my niece Carsyn. We appreciated all of them coming. I also missed pictures of most of Deb’s side of the family who also came out to support Megan, but we so appreciated them being there.
Megan received so many thoughtful cards and gifts on Saturday, but this one was a little extra special for Megan. Kenzi sent Celeste Sheridan pictures of our pets, and Celeste used her incredible skills to hand paint this picture for Megan. When Megan opened it, she had tears of joy in her eyes. Thanks to Celeste for such an amazing and thoughtful gift.

We are so thankful to everyone who came over to support Megan’s accomplishments.  I wish I could have taken pictures and talked to everyone, but I know I missed some good friends and supporters.  Please know how grateful Megan and our family is for your constant love and support.  During the toughest of times, Team Megan has always come through as a source of inspiration for Megan, and we are forever in your debt.

Saturday was so much fun, but Sunday was a bit of a downer as Kenzi had to head back to Madison.  She works with a private speech pathologist, and one of the requirements for getting the job was that she would have to work over the summer.  Since the clinic opens back up on Monday, Kenzi had to go back today.  She is also working in the lab for one of her speech pathology professors, and that starts this coming week as well.  While working two jobs, she will also be taking a summer school course, but being busy is par for the course when it comes to Kenzi.  It was so good to have her home for a few weeks, but we also know that going back to Madison is what she has to do right now.  Throughout Megan’s Journey, Megan, Deb and I have been adamant that Kenzi continue living her life as much as possible.  When Megan relapsed, it was hard for Kenzi to leave, but through the magic of social media, Facetime and cell phones, the girls will stay closely connected until Kenzi comes back for a couple weeks in August.  Of course, I know we will all find time to get together more than once over the next six weeks.  We are so proud of Kenzi, and although we will miss her terribly, we are excited for her to continue on her own journey.  It was really nice that Deb, Aunt Janet and Cousin Carly headed back with her today to help her move in.  Kenzi was excited to show Janet and Carly the sites of the University of Wisconsin.  Here is a picture of the girls saying goodbye before Kenzi headed back to Madison.


Megan has spent today recovering from her busy Saturday and getting rested up for the continuation of daily proton radiation starting on Monday and her next chemotherapy treatment on Tuesday.  Let’s hope the side effects don’t cause her too much discomfort over the next two weeks.  It’s back to reality as the fight continues on Monday…



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Megan is my beautiful 14 year old daughter who is currently fighting Stage 4 cancer. This is the story of her journey as told by her father.

23 thoughts on “Achievements Worth Celebrating”

  1. Really enjoyed seeing all of you at the party. Thank you so much for the invitation. I had a wonderful visit with Grandma Bugg, too.


  2. So Happy you had such a a GREAT Graduation Party Megan!!! 👩‍🎓 I’m continuing to place you in God’s healing light…and pray for strength & comfort.


  3. Megan you are such a role model for other children with cancer. I am so proud of all of your achievements you have made. May God bless you and restore you to health. Thank you for sharing your real life ups and downs with us. You are such a fighter. May you continue to be blessed by your family and friends. You don’t know me, but I follow you and our story.
    Sincerely, Joann


  4. We are so glad you were able to enjoy your graduation celebration, Megan!!! Hope your treatments are not so harsh on you from here on out. We are sending lots of love and ❤️❤️❤️ hugs!!!

    Jim and Kathy Martis


  5. Beautiful & Loving Family you are one Lucky Girl! Glad you were able to enjoy the lovely party! Wishing you a good week hope it isn’t to harsh on you!! Love & Prayers are being sent to you that cancer will call it quits & you can live a normal & healthy life once again!! Stay strong!!!😊🙏🙏🙏🐶


  6. I am so happy you had a fun graduation party, Megan. You deserve it. Wishing you a peaceful, gentle week. Have a great summer.


  7. Thanks so much for the lovely photos of the graduation party ! Megan, I’m sending you all the positive thoughts and support in the world.


  8. It was such a pleasure seeing Megan you and your family. and we were honored that you invited us. Wishing Megan a smooth week ahead with treatments 😊🙏


  9. So much to be proud of & so glad she felt “ok” and could participate. Each day a gift. Always thinking of your family.♥️


  10. Words can’t express how beautiful Megan is ! This young lady is everything one would wish for ! Megan , love , kindness , beauty , thoughtful , faith , spirit , and so much more ! ❤️ 🙏 🌹 😸 🌈 ❤️


  11. So happy you had such a great day celebrating Megan with your family and friends. Will continue to pray for Megan and her family.


  12. Thank you for sharing the pictures and for telling us all about Megan’s party!! She is my hero!!! Sending positive thoughts, prayers and gentle hugs for all of you!!!❤️


  13. So happy to see all the celebrations and people that came to share with Megan so happy for everyone to come and celebrate with Megan she got this we take it step by step it is good with modern technology her and Kenzie can stay in touch she is a busy girl also but going to make a huge contribution to everyone’s life you have 2 awesome and beautiful girls and they are a inspiration to everyone who follows your family ❤️😍🥰🙏


  14. So glad you were able to enjoy your Graduation day & to be surrounded by family & friends that love you! You are an amazing, strong & beautiful young lady! Keep your chin up & fight the fight! Prayers & Hugs! 🙏🏻🙏🏻💙💙


  15. Congratulations Megan!!!! You are indeed an inspiration to many (including me)! Praying that the treatments get easier and do their job.


  16. June 28, 2019
    You are the classiest of the class of 2019!
    Smiles to you,
    Dr. Charles W. Birch, Morris, Illinois


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