The sweetest word a cancer patient can hear is “remission”. I will never forget the first time we heard those words spoken about Megan in late January, 2016. She had just completed a grueling 54 weeks of chemotherapy and had finally come out victorious against cancer. The feeling of euphoria from our family was unbelievable as we were all so relieved that Megan had finally beaten down cancer and could now get on with her life. Because we were still relatively new at the childhood cancer game, little did we know that hearing remission for the first time was far from the final chapter of this story. Megan was in remission for a full year before she relapsed in February, 2017. However, naivety caused us to be unaware that her year in remission would be full of the mental and physical battles that accompany being a childhood cancer survivor. Although Megan was devastated when she learned she had relapsed, she was almost relieved to go back on chemotherapy. That might sound strange to some, but even though the physical torture of the treatment was awful, there was a mental calmness that came over her knowing that chemotherapy was attacking any cancer cells in her body. While she was receiving treatment, the constant mental battle of wondering if or when her cancer would return was finally relieved. Megan’s latest relapse was treated with an experimental chemotherapy combination, and although it was supposed to last 36 weeks, her body could only handle 24 weeks of the treatment. Her lung damage was too severe to risk any further treatment. So about a month ago, Megan received the news that she was officially in remission. Although that was such amazing news, we all knew that Megan’s mental battle was beginning all over again. She has been battling back with everything she’s got, but sometimes, there are events that cause that mental doubt to creep back in. As I have mentioned many times before, fighting cancer is much tougher mentally than physically…and when you are a teenage girl battling childhood cancer, the constant mental struggle can be so difficult.
Imagine worrying that every ache, pain, or bump you experience could be the return of cancer. That’s everyday life for Megan. Over the past four years that she has been in this constant cycle of treatment, remission, treatment, remission, etc., she has become fairly adept at overcoming the fear. However, there are times that it becomes too much and she needs some reassurance. Such was the case earlier this week. Megan has been having some pain in the area of her left clavicle, and when any pain in her body arises, she immediately starts feeling for tumors. After feeling the area around her left collar bone over and over again, she believed she felt an abnormality on the bone. Deb and I tried to feel it, but couldn’t; however, Megan was convinced it was there. After a couple days of this, she said she needed to see her oncologist to make sure. As usual, everyone at the Central DuPage Hospital Oncology Clinic was amazing and Dr. Hayani got her in the same morning I called. They took bloodwork and Dr. Hayani spent a long time giving her a very thorough physical exam. He also looked at her MRI from a month ago and reviewed it with the radiologist prior to Megan arriving. After his exam, he assured Megan that there was nothing there and everything was fine. That obviously made Megan feel much better, which was a good thing, because her sister arrived home from college on Monday night for her winter break!
Kenzi enjoyed another banner semester at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is still studying Communication Disorders and is on schedule to graduate in four years. Not only is she doing incredibly well academically, but she loves the college campus and everything a large college town has to offer. She attends all of the home football games and follows the boys basketball and the girls volleyball teams closely. In fact, on Thursday night we all watched the Badger volleyball team win their NCAA Tournament Final 4 match. On Saturday night, we held a watch party at our house for the championship game against Stanford. Makenna Emerson and her boyfriend Ryan stopped by to watch the game with all of us. Although the Badgers couldn’t pull out a win, we still had fun. Here is everyone getting ready to cheer on the Badgers 🙂
Although Megan received good news from Dr. Hayani and was so excited that her sister was home, she received some tough news this week that really hit her hard. Over the past five years, Megan has connected with her fellow teenage cancer fighters from all over the country. Although most of their connection is through social media, she always looks forward to attending Curefest in Washington, D.C., which is when she connects personally with all of her brave friends. It’s amazing to watch these girls together because they share a connection that none of us could ever understand. Because of their shared stories, they go from strangers to best friends in minutes. These girls have become such an important part of Megan’s support system…which makes losing yet another one so devastating for her.
On Friday, Megan was so excited because she and Kenzi were planning to go out for lunch in Joliet and then go see the new movie, “Cats”. Megan saw the musical “Cats” in Chicago and couldn’t wait for the movie version to come out. Right before Megan walked into the theater, she received the news that her friend Lily Weaver had passed away that very day (December 20) after a long battle with Ewings Sarcoma. Megan first met Lily at Curefest 2018 and they immediately hit it off.
Lily’s positive attitude and outgoing personality was infectious. She was a beautiful young lady that was taken from us far too soon. Hearing the news the Lily had passed brought with it a flood of emotions for Megan. Of course Megan was upset about losing yet another of her friends. In the midst of tears, Megan asked me, “Why do my friends have to keep dying?” Tragically, I don’t have an answer for that question that makes any logical sense…but that’s another topic for another post. Not only was Megan mourning her friend, but every time one of her friends dies from cancer, she starts to question her own mortality. She goes through a process of doubting her ability to beat this beast and it scares her. We try to comfort and reassure her, but none of us can really ever understand what she is feeling. Lily was a blessing to everyone who knew her, and we hope she is resting in peace. Here is a screenshot of Megan’s recent Facebook post honoring her friend Lily, which contains a picture of them from Curefest, 2019. I think Megan’s post says it all.
The timing could not have been better for the Bugg family Christmas celebration today. Megan needed a diversion and getting together with family was just the ticket. We had so much fun kicking off the Christmas season at the Bugg family farm. Here are some pictures from the celebration.
We were also able to grab a couple of family pictures this morning before we left for the farm.
It’s always entertaining to try and get a picture with the pets 🙂
Fighting cancer is a constant battle. We continue to follow Megan’s lead as she has taught us to seek out and treasure the beautiful moments that each day brings. During the tough times, those beautiful moments might be a little harder to find, but they are always there if you look hard enough. It’s going to be a very merry Christmas!!! Until next week…