Just before Makenzie turned seven years old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At first her parents, Terri and Chris, thought her short term memory loss and dizziness had been caused by a fall Makenzie had taken. But after bringing Makenzie to Phoenix Children's Hospital, doctors found that she had a brain tumor – an inoperable one because of its location on Makenzie's brain stem.
The brain tumor blocked the flow of fluid through the brain, which caused the brain to swell. A neurosurgeon at Phoenix Children's performed a ventriculostomy to drain the fluid and reduce pressure in the brain. A week later, Makenzie had a shunt put in to further relieve the pressure.
Since April of last year, this Valley resident has made weekly trips to Phoenix Children's to have her blood drawn, do blood counts and receive her chemotherapy treatment. Through it all, Makenzie's mom Terri has been amazed at how well her daughter handles everything. Makenzie has remained upbeat and positive – something that helped the rest of the family cope with the news.
Every few months Makenzie has an MRI to see if the tumor has grown. Since August of last year, there has been no growth. Doctors and Makenzie's family consider that a success.
This second grader doesn't always understand the implications of her diagnosis. But she does know it's serious. Her parents explained it to her by telling her she has a "big ball of yuck" in her brain. "We told her she would have to endure a lot over the next few years because the yuck wasn't good for her brain," says her mom Terri.
When contacted by the Make-a-Wish Foundation®, rather than asking for a trip to Disneyland® or to meet a celebrity, Makenzie wanted to meet an author; Barbara Park who writes the Junie B. Jones book series. She not only met the author, Park dedicated her book "Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny" to Makenzie.
Makenzie is described by the people she knows as happy, funny, and a social butterfly who is always in the middle of everything. She's also thoughtful. Makenzie spearheaded a toy drive at her church, donating more than $5,000 worth of toys and clothing to Phoenix Children's. She also got her class at school to make Easter Bunny bags to give to other children who were hospitalized over the holiday.
She's also a bundle of energy – as you can tell from the interview below – where a loquacious Makenzie talks about her treatment, some of her favorite things to do, her sometimes pesky brothers, and advice she has for other kids who come to Phoenix Children's.
You had an interesting Make-a-Wish request. What was it like having a book dedicated to you?
That was quite a while ago, but it was really cool. She [Park] even gave me all the books and she signed every single one of them.
Is Dumb Bunny one of your favorite books?
It's my favorite chapter book, and my mom says that it's her favorite Junie B. Jones book so far.
Was it a surprise…her dedicating the book to you?
No. I knew she was going to do it. But the cool thing was that she sent the book to me a month early. She sent it to me before it even came out.
What does the dedication say?
Dear Makenzie Moore. This book is specially dedicated to you from me. I hope it makes you laugh and laugh. Love and hugs, Junie B. First Grader. P.S. Plus also. Thank you to Make-a-Wish for introducing us. That was it.
Do you remember the day you found out you had brain tumor?
A little bit. When we found out I was sitting on my mom's lap and we were crying our heads off.
Do you get tired of coming to the hospital?
I actually kind of like it because it's peace and quiet and my brothers can't torture me there.
How old are your brothers?
Carson is number one and he is four. My second brother is Brayden and he's almost two. Actually, he is two because he had his birthday.
What has made you so brave through all of this?
Probably having my mom there with me.
Do you think you're a little more grown up than some of your friends because of everything you've gone through?
Yeah, because I've been doing [chemotherapy] for like a year now, and will probably do it through the end of August.
Are you scared to have your blood drawn?
No I can't even feel anything. It just looks gross when I look at it. At first I was scared and thought to myself, "What in the world is that?"
Who are some of your best friends?
One friend at school is Mandy and she's one of my best friends. And I have a friend Emily H. A few of my best friends at the hospital are Elaine, she's one of the nurses. She's so happy and stuff. And Annie, she's one of my friends too. And Dr. Etzl and my other favorite doctor, who is Dr. Baranko. They've just been so nice to me. At this point I don't even care what doctor or nurse I get because they're all so nice.
Is that different than what you expected?
No. What kind of nurse would be rude and bossy? Nurses are supposed to be helping you.
What made you want to do the Easter Bunny bags?
Well, it all started because my teacher found the idea and she sent a letter home that she'd be collecting toys for the Easter basket. We even started out late, and at first nobody was bringing stuff in. A week later everyone brought in cool stuff. We had more than 1,000 things. You won't believe how many [baskets] we made.
We made 220! I'm not even kidding. I'm serious. Some of the other classes started collecting them for our class. They even put this on the news.
That's great. What are some things you like to do?
I like to dance. I've been in dance class for two years now. You know what? I've had four to five recitals now. But I'm off now because it's summer break. Another hobby is playing with my brother. Most of the time we play stuffed animals or my Littlest Pet Shop®. I like school too.
Have you missed a lot of school being here at the Hospital?
I only miss school one day a week. The hardest part is that we make a lot of fun stuff. One day when I was at the hospital they went on field trip and I missed it, and I really wanted to go. I'm like, ohhhh please.
What is your favorite subject?
Sometimes math and sometimes recess and lunch breaks that we get. One of my other favorite hobbies is going to music class because we sing, and I like to sing a lot.
Who is your favorite singer?
Hannah Montana. I even have her disc.
What is your favorite movie?
"The Princess and the Pauper." I've got it and it's such a great movie. One of the beginning parts is kind of creepy though because it's in a dark cave and three mean guys sing this song.
What is your favorite TV show?
"Maya and Miguel." They're twins…one boy and one girl, and the brother gets annoyed with his sister sometimes.
See. Everyone get's annoyed with their siblings sometimes.
But Maya never gets annoyed with her brother. Isn't that strange?
That is strange. What is your favorite place?
I like being wherever my family is.
Your favorite food?
Chicken. And macaroni with it.
What would you tell other kids who have to come to the hospital?
Well, I would tell them what it is like. First thing I would say is that you will sit in a chair and they call you from the front desk. Then they weigh you, do your blood pressure and take your temperature. And once a month they check your height. Then I would tell them that a nurse will take you to your room and you will wait there until the doctor comes in. The doctor will check your ears, nose, mouth, and eyes. Then the nurse comes in and gives you a port-a-cath. If your blood turns out to be good they do your medicine. Then they have a basket of stickers and you can get one of those on your way out. I like the stickers in the lab the best. I'm saving mine to make a picture frame.
You've got this down. Do you think you'll be a doctor someday?
Maybe. Can I tell you one more thing?
I wanted to tell you what happened at Make-a-Wish. My mommy, daddy, friend, and grandma took me out for a surprise breakfast at IHOP® and then to Girly Girlz®. Then they took me to the Phoenician. Have you heard of that place?
They had a whole table of presents for me. Then they took me to Phoenix Children's to the back playground. Have you ever been out there?
Well they had a surprise party for me there with M&Ms® cookies. I had one that was an inch thick…like the size of a big metal plate. There was no way I could eat it by myself so I took it to school and shared it with my friends.
That sounds pretty cool.
Uh huh. Can I tell you one more thing?
I'm going to Camp Rainbow. I'm a little bit looking forward to it, but I'm a little nervous because it's the unknown. But I met another girl in the infusion room [at Phoenix Children's]. Her birthday is on March 1. Mine's on March 2 and we're both eight. Isn't that weird? Miss Cathy said that she'll make sure that we're in the same cabin, so I've already got a friend who will be there with me.
You'll have a blast.
I know. I've already done Super Sixers…you know on the Friday where the six-year-olds who didn't go to the week camp get to spend the day there. Last time I was there I got to paint Dr. Etzl. I even painted his glasses. My dad took me and we got to ride a fancy bus that even had a bathroom on it.
Well, I've also ridden in a carriage at the Hospital. A horse pulled it. That's the funnest thing I've done at the Hospital. On the way out I even called my friend Jenna to tell her about it.