Growing up on a ranch in Hazelton,18-year-old Madie Marshall is used to working hard and feeling strong and healthy, but it wasn’t always that way.
Years ago, she had cancer in both eyes and lost her left one.
“I mean, I’ve been used to not seeing out of it so it’s never really bothered me,” said Madie.
Her mom says a Polaroid picture tipped them off that something was wrong.
“You know when you see a cat at night, and its eyes glow? She had a glowing eye,” said Nanci.
Her doctor knew right away, it was cancer– retinoblastoma.
“She only had one tumor in her right eye. Her left eye was stage five and had numerous tumors in it,” said Nanci.
The doctor sent the family to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, even offering to pay for their trip.
“He was that positive we were going to the right place, and as soon as we got there, I knew we were,” said Nanci, nodding.
Eight months of treatment killed the tumors, or so they thought.
Just before Madie’s third birthday, an aggressive new tumor developed, and the left eye had to be replaced with a prosthetic.
“She got fitted with it and came out and told us her eye was magic.” said Nanci with a smile.
And just like every patient at St. Jude, all the bills were covered.
“I think our stack of bills that year was this high,” said Nanci, with her fingers several inches apart. “I didn’t even look at them. I just stacked them all up!”
Ever since, Madie has thrived, taking college-level courses in high school and being class president all four years.
Her vision doesn’t even affect her driving.
“Well, I had to take a peripheral vision test when I started to drive, and they put your head in a thing with lights and see how far you can see,” said Madie. “I passed it well because I could see farther than they thought I could.”
Madie still goes back to St. Jude each year for a checkup. Doctors want to see if the cancer caused any long-term problems.
“They test everything that it could affect– her hearing, her vision, her internal organs,” said Nanci.
“Everything was good,” agreed Madie. “It was like perfect numbers this time.”
It lets Madie focus on what really matters– her cattle and graduation!
Madie plans to study animal science at K-State in the fall, and someday when she’s ready to have kids, St. Jude will offer her genetic counseling to make sure the gene for retinoblastoma is not passed on.
Until then, her family celebrates 15 years cancer-free!