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My miracle - experimental chemo

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

In 2005, I was given a rare, stage 4, metastatic cancer diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma that would forever change my path in life. I was told that this cancer had no treatment plan and therefore my roadmap was determined by entering my age, gender, type of cancer and stage of progression into a computer model that would develop a random treatment. The 42 weeks of chemotherapy, along with the highest radiation possible, would devastate my body. My doctors told me I would most likely not see my 16th birthday. There were times that I didn’t think I could go on and simply wanted to give up. I was only 15. 

Cancer took from me my only chance to be a real teenager. But cancer will do that. It will make you fight whether you're ready or not. I remember fearing that I would never get my driver’s license, walk across a stage to receive my high school diploma, fall in love, or ever just be healthy again.

By January of 2007, I had finished my last day of chemo, radiation was over, and my scans were clear! I don't think I had ever felt such happiness like I did that day. I had seen my last outpatient room with the ugliest curtains I ever laid eyes on, thanked my angel of a nurse, Donna, for taking such great care of me and for always providing me with my favorite "after chemo" cocktail of Ativan and Dilaudid, then headed home.

That happiness lasted a bittersweet six months. The morning of my Mom's birthday, I woke up from a vivid nightmare that the cancer was back. And it was. So, I embarked on yet another course of experimental treatment. Round two was another 50-week roadmap of different chemos that would end up taking almost 2 years to complete and another six weeks of radiation. Radiation that I would fail to complete due to the devastation to my body. The following years were darker than I ever thought imaginable. There were daily clinic visits, some emergency surgeries, nearly weekly trips to the ER, and too many blood transfusions to count.

At two points in my treatment, we were told the cancer wasn’t responding, and at 17 years old, I found myself planning how and where I'd like to spend my last days. My doctors told me I’d feel no more pain and that I didn’t have to fight anymore. If there ever was a time to start believing in miracles, that was it. After repeated scans, it wasn’t what they thought. What had appeared to be new tumors in my lungs turned out instead to be tiny pockets of fluid. There was my miracle. The experimental treatment had been working. Experimental chemotherapy that saved my life and gave me the gift of many more tomorrows. During those years, my body had been through changes that I would never wish on anyone, especially not a child.

I recently celebrated my 28th birthday. I wasn’t supposed to have that gift. Not a day goes by that I don’t love and appreciate this life. My hope is that every child will have that same opportunity for life-saving treatment. Research is what saved my life. That’s what led my doctors to the experimental therapy and to my miracle.

Please give generously to The Morgan Adams Foundation, so they can fund research to help more kids with cancer. Donate online at morganadamsfoundation.org.

Thank you,

Morgan McKillop



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Wednesday, May 27, 2015