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MaddyDuring the month of October 2007, our almost 3 year old daughter Madelyn started "not feeling well". Specifically, she would start running very high fevers with no apparent cause. Finally, after the third straight week with no reprieve, our pediatrician sent us for lab work. I remember receiving the call from her that evening, telling us that the labs were not good and that we should pack a bag and go straight to Children's Memorial. That night, in the ER, the doctors told us that they believed Maddy had either leukemia or lymphoma and that they would perform a bone marrow aspirate in the morning to confirm. On October 30, 2007, exactly one month to the day before her 3rd birthday, we found out Madelyn had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and would have more than two years of chemotherapy ahead of her.

In hindsight, we were able to recognize that there had been several symptoms before her diagnosis. Madelyn had complained of dizziness, some minor bruising, fatigue, and was a bit moody off and on for about two months beforehand. Because these symptoms would come and go, it was easy to chalk them up to "normal toddler things." It wasn't until the very high fevers that it became clear something was wrong.

Maddy In TreatmentI remember our first week in the hospital I was sad, scared, and in disbelief. We were told that the prognosis for this cancer was good- 85%. We clung to that number. Yet I was SO worried about her losing her long beautiful brown hair. I was absolutely convinced that it would traumatize her more than anything. Some of my own darkest hours came when I would find clumps of her hair around the house. It took 6 months before she lost her hair; it thinned and thinned and on Easter morning 2008 Madelyn woke up bald. And you know what? She wasn't traumatized. In fact, she asked for glitter that she could sprinkle on her head. She wore her sparkly bald head proudly.

Throughout the next two years, Madelyn definitely needed to call upon that strength more times than a child ever should. She had a port in which she received most of her chemo. Her port was never an idea she got used to. I had to straddle her and hold her down each and every time it was accessed. In two years, it never got easier for her. On the other hand, she loved her spinal tap days! She was always pre-sedated and affectionately called the procedure suite "the funny room" because, well, that's how the medicine made her feel! She took daily chemo at home by mouth and, although it took some time, we were able to figure out a system that worked for that too. Madelyn attended preschool a few hours a week throughout treatment and was hospitalized a handful of times for neutropenia and viral infections. Throughout it all, though, her resilience was an inspiration to everyone.

Madelyn finished chemotherapy in January 2010. She remains in remission and shares her story proudly.

I often tell people that I don't fear much of anything anymore. As a mother, my worst fear has already come true. My daughter had to fight cancer. The remarkable connections, support, and acts of faith we witnessed throughout the journey has changed us forever. We have stepped off to the side of the cancer course. We now walk alongside it, hoping to hold out a helping hand to those still on it.

To get in touch with Maddy's family, please contact NICK at 219-765-7677 or info@nwicancerkids.org.