Makayla had a bump on her bottom when she was two years old. We thought it was an abscess, but when her doctor discovered it was a tumor, he sent us to Doernbecher.
After that, we went into extensive testing—biopsy, bone scans, blood work—and learned that Makayla had Rhabdomyosarcoma, cancer of the muscles that are attached to the bones.
We basically were admitted the next day. She had the tumor removed, a central line put in for chemo. It was crazy, it all went so fast. Then she had complications and fevers, had a few blood transfusions. We were at OHSU more often than we were home. I had a three-month old at the same time; her brother basically grew up in the hospital. After six months, the cancer came back, and we started everything up again—chemo, radiation, stem cell transplant. We hit it hard. Dr. Nicholson was our oncologist. We also spent a lot of time with Dr. Tilford, and Kathy Perkeo. Everyone was just amazing: We felt so loved and cared for, and nurtured from everyone, from the cafeteria workers to the nurse's assistants.
Makayla is now 13. She's just amazing: So incredibly strong, beautiful and kind. She's driven to help people. When we returned to Doernbecher for the survivor clinic, there were all these amazing people. It's like nothing I've ever experienced. They treat you like you're a person and not a number.We lived about 45 minutes away, so not too far, but we were pretty much wrecked. The whole experience was really intense, and through it we really relied on our faith. It changed us in every way possible.
Makayla: At the Cancer Survivor Clinic, we saw specialists about my genes. The doctors are really nice. They talked to me a lot and asked me questions about all the chemo. I don't remember much about being in the hospital, but I do remember doing crafts and there being music. I also love fundraising. I fundraise for Doernbecher and my church sold raffle tickets and made $2,500 for my church's family camp. My dad says I should go into sales.
Kathy:OHSU is a learning hospital, and there is so much cutting-edge, advanced medicine. I'm sure there are other amazing hospitals, but OHSU was the place for us. Every single department we went to—and we went to many of them—was incredible. It was an obvious choice.