Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Maddy's Story

Maddy was born nine weeks early, along with her twin sister, Abby, but she was always considered perfectly healthy. An adventurous child, she enjoys softball, go-karting, four-wheeling and playing with her dog. But it all changed on January 14, 2020.

“Mom, there’s a big lump on my neck,” were the words that changed Maddy’s life forever. After a weekend of playing basketball, showing no signs that anything was wrong, Maddy went to her mom and said those exact words. Her mom, Trisha, was visibly concerned, since the growth seemed to have appeared overnight, and called Maddy’s pediatrician. They went to the doctor’s office that morning and were told that the family needed to head to St. Louis Children’s immediately for further testing. Once in the emergency department, Maddy was introduced to the Child Life team, who walked her through the x-ray she needed and then hung out with her while her parents spoke with the doctors.

With Maddy out of the room, her parents got the devastating news. It was cancer — Hodgkin’s lymphoma to be exact. A rare cancer in children, the disease causes abnormal cell growth in the lymphatic system, the part of the body’s immune system that helps fight disease and infection. She was immediately admitted to Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital so her care team could understand more about her cancer and develop a personalized treatment plan. A scary time for Maddy and her family, the team from Child Life Services was there again to assist during her initial surgery and subsequent treatments. They provided her with blankets, toys and games that took her mind off the battle she was facing head on.

After two weeks inpatient, Maddy began attending outpatient therapy through the oncology clinic. While everything had been going according to plan, after the third round of chemotherapy, her positron emission tomography (PET) scan revealed the cancer wasn’t shrinking at the rate the doctors needed, so it was time to get more aggressive.

Once again, Maddy was admitted into the hospital to undergo a stronger form of chemotherapy that required close monitoring of her vital organs, including her kidneys. Coincidentally, around the same time, the prevalence of the new COVID-19 virus forced St. Louis Children’s to adopt a stricter visitor policy. Not only were the treatments getting tougher, but Maddy was only able to have her mom at her bedside instead of both parents and her twin sister.

After several more grueling rounds, her cancer had reduced dramatically, and she was allowed to go home for a break before she would need radiation therapy — one session five days a week for three straight weeks. One of those therapy sessions fell on Maddy’s 11th birthday. Without skipping a beat, her friends in Child Life made sure it was still a special day by hanging a big banner and having presents and balloons for Maddy as a way to normalize those important childhood milestones.

Maddy’s last radiation treatment was in July 2020 and she rang the bell, a milestone in cancer treatment that indicates the end of treatment. She’s currently in remission and her latest scans have continued to show no signs of cancer.

How CMN Funds Help Maddy and Kids Like Her:

From her first steps into St. Louis Children’s, the Child Life team was there for Maddy and her family. Without their support, Maddy’s course of treatment would have been much harder to face. From preparing Maddy for procedures to making a book explaining her diagnosis for her to share with friends so she wouldn’t have to, the Child Life team anticipated needs Maddy and her family didn’t even know they had. Because COVID-19 also forced Children’s to shut down many of the group activities, funds from CMN were used to create personalized bedside experiences for patients during their hospital stays to give them the chance to just be kids.