February 25, 2019, was a big day for 6-year-old Madison Fedak. After a year of fighting bone cancer, the sweet survivor rang the end-of-treatment bell at Levine Children’s Hospital. It all started in the spring of 2018.
Madison’s parents noticed something was off with their active daughter when she wasn’t walking or running like she usually did. They knew they needed answers, so they hurried to a local emergency room, where an X-ray revealed their worst nightmare: a tumor in Madison’s femur.
Madison had osteosarcoma, a bone cancer so rare it’s almost unheard of in kids her age. Javier Oesterheld, MD, Madison’s cancer specialist at Levine Children’s, walked the family through their little girl’s treatment plan, which included chemotherapy, medications, and surgery. Nothing about the road ahead was easy, but along the way, Madison and her family found one thing you can’t prescribe: hope.
Over the course of the next year, driving two hours for treatment and long hospital stays became routine for the Fedaks. They quickly learned that a cancer diagnosis affects more than the patient – it affects the whole family. “Our program really focuses on how to take care of the patients and the whole family at the same time,” says Dr. Oesterheld. “From physical to mental health, we really focus on whole-body wellness.” Levine Children’s Hospital started to feel like home and Madison’s care team like family. The effects of chemotherapy can be excruciating, and Madison experienced them all, from the vomiting to the hair loss to the mouth sores and fatigue. Through the highs and lows of her condition, every member of her hospital care team was there to raise her spirits, playing games to help her feel better and having her favorite meal (nachos) ready in the cafeteria.
After repeated treatments and rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, Madison was ready for surgery to remove it. Although much of her femur was replaced with a cadaver, her surgeons were able to save her growth plates. This means the 6-year-old can keep growing healthy and strong for many years. “We were beyond pleased at how well she progressed,” says Laura. “She was amazing and met every challenge given to her by her physical therapy team, doctors and child life specialists.” Madison endured several more months of treatments and scans, and at last, she entered the next phase of her cancer journey: survivorship.
“To the entire Levine Children’s Hospital team, you’ll never know how you’ve impacted our lives,” says Laura. “We never thought in a million years that we’d be another statistic of childhood cancer. But because of you, we’re also a statistic of survivorship.” The start of something beautiful Madison’s journey to survivorship was long and difficult. Before she was even in the first grade, she’d experienced more struggles than most do in a lifetime, including learning to walk again after her surgery. But wait – this is Madison we’re talking about. All the treatments to save her life might have weakened her body, but they didn’t weaken who she is.
Cancer treatment took up a year of Madison’s life, and it’s not over yet. But even with ongoing checkups, scans and physical therapy to make sure she stays healthy, the 6-year-old has plenty to look forward to. “Because of the entire Levine Children’s Hospital team, I’ll be able to watch my sweet girl ride a bike for the first time. I’ll get to watch her walk across the stage for graduation, and years from now when she gets married, I’ll be able to watch her daddy walk her down the aisle,” says Laura. February 25, 2019, was a big day for Madison. It’s the day she celebrated the end of a long fight. It’s the day she was proclaimed cancer-free. And most importantly, it’s the day she started the rest of her life.
You can help bring hope back to those children in need like Madison by donating to the Levine Children’s Hospital this holiday season. Your gift will bring hope to our patients and their families and will help each child at Levine Children’s Hospital have an unforgettable holiday.