Carly is 13. She is a typical teenager that looks up to her big sister Mackenzie.
Mackenzie was diagnosed with Stage Two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March of this year. After being diagnosed she received chemotherapy at MUSC and had issues with a collapsed lung and with chemo treatments. This forced her to be admitted to MUSC for 10 days. In the months to follow she received numerous treatments, testing, and scans to determine the path of her cancer. After her cycles were completed a scan revealed that her masses had not shrunk to the extent that would excuse her from radiation therapy. The second part of the treatment was to have proton radiation at UF’s Proton Institute in Jacksonville, FL. This treatment started in late June and continued for 5 weeks ending in July. The scheduled treatments and testing after the radiation treatment revealed that her cancer had been reduced and no cells were found in the PET/CT Scan. So as of today, it appears the treatments were successful.
Our lives were placed on hold through this journey both emotionally and financially. Knowing her treatments would be several days a week and travel to and from MUSC would be chaotic, Mackenzie’s mother took, Valerie took family medical leave to care for Mackenzie needs. Valerie used her accumulated time and eventually went to a no pay status. I continued to work full time, and then worked on my days off to try and make up the difference for Valerie not working.
The initial treatments started in late March, on that Thursday she was admitted for her port, first set of Chemo, and testing. That Monday she returned for a follow up and had issues breathing. It was found that she had a collapsed lung and had to be admitted. During this time Valerie stayed with Mackenzie in the hospital while I cared for our 3 other children Kelsey, Carly, and Kate. Upon being released from MUSC the chemo treatments continued. She traveled to and from MUSC 3-4 days a week until the end of her cycles, then 2-3 times a week for testing. During this time, we entrusted Kelsey (14) to care for Carly and Kate on the days I was working. Through these weeks of treatment our children were faced with questions about Mackenzie’s condition and the lack of time they got to spend with Valerie and Mackenzie. Kelsey, Carly, and Kate were limited to the things they could do with their friends and activities due to financial reasons and lack of parent time.
At the end of the chemo cycles we planned for Mackenzie’s Proton Therapy. Unfortunately, the closest facility was in Jacksonville, FL. The radiation therapy in Jacksonville, Fla was concerning as we planned for Valerie and Mackenzie to be away from us for several weeks and to figure out where they would be staying. Through the Proton Center, arrangements were made to stay at The Ronald McDonald House. Valerie and Mackenzie stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and only drove home for a few weekends to see family. Mackenzie’s sisters were brought to her and were able to stay over 4th of July and spend time with other family. It was hard on them do to the short amount of time they had with Valerie and Mackenzie.
I hope this brief letter enlightens you to the hardships related to Mackenzie’s treatment and to our family. We thank you for your concern of our family and the support you provide to families with similar circumstances. Thank you for helping our family this Christmas. We can’t wait to see their joy!