We thought McKensi had the flu. Her doctor thought so, too, but ran some additional tests - just in case. Then the results came back and the bone marrow biopsy confirmed: McKensi had leukemia. She was just three years old.
The next day, she started treatment with Dr. Tilford, a pediatric oncologist at Doernbecher. Over the past decade, he’s been like one of the family. Over the next seven years, McKensi had two rounds of chemo. It was hard, really hard, on all of us, but on the bright side, she didn’t miss a lot of school during chemo, and she didn’t have to stay in the hospital while receiving chemo.
But she did have to stay at Doernbecher when she had a bone marrow transplant, when she was 10. She had to stay for about six weeks. They monitored every move she made, to make sure her body didn’t reject the transplanted marrow.
McKensi loves animals. Every time the animal therapists visited, it totally lifted her spirits. At home, she has two pet rats and she couldn’t hold them for a year during her recovery period. Seeing the pets at Doernbecher meant the world to her. There was a dog - a whippet - named Katy, and a cat, named Joey.
The staff was so kind. They were so good, so respectful of privacy. I always felt secure that they would take the very best care of McKensi. The social workers were also crucial; they helped with all the legwork, finding all available resources to help our family with McKensi’s care.
I had so many concerns and questions, about everything. The nurses would spend as much time as I needed to explain it all to me. That is so crucial: When someone makes you feel comfortable, that they’re going to stay with you and answer your questions for as long as you need them, it makes the biggest difference.
These last three years are the longest we’ve ever gone without cancer in our lives. McKensi is 13 now. At her birthday party, she said it was her best birthday ever. We have Doernbecher to thank for that.