Learning to Cope
A Scary Diagnosis
Just before Makenzie turned 7 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 her to Barrow at Phoenix Children's, doctors found 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 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.