Maria has met a lot of people through blogging, especially fellow teacher bloggers. But one blogger in particular has become Maria’s closest blogging friend: Marsha McGuire of A Differentiated Kindergarten. Marsha lives in Michigan (though still a few hours away) and she and Maria have an annual tradition of meeting up for a weekend retreat to work on their blogs, swap ideas and have a few drinks. I spent a couple days with Maria and Marsha to attend a small blogging conference last year and I can see why Maria likes her so much; she just a wonderful, sweet, nice person. She’s on the right in the photo below, along with Maria and Jodi, who blogs at Fun in First.
Frankly, I don’t know how Marsha manages her life; she has SO MUCH going on. Not only does she teach kindergarten full time and run A Differentiated Kindergarten, she and her husband Mike have three sons: MacKale, MaGill and McCoy. And these boys are active. They all play sports and participate in a lot of extracurricular activities, just like most kids in elementary school
As you may have gathered from the title of this post, I’m writing today about one of Marsha’s boys in particular. MacKale is Marsha’s oldest child and he has hemophilia, which requires him to get regular infusions of a clotting factor that will allow his blood to clot properly. Hemophilia may be an obstacle, but it hasn’t slowed MacKale down one bit. He even learned how to infuse himself, which is a very impressive accomplishment. I think most adults would feel pretty squeamish at the thought of injecting themselves with anything. Yet for MacKale, it’s just another day and not a big deal.
So when MacKale had a persistent leg injury after a soccer game last year, he and his parents thought it was related to the hemophilia. After getting it checked out, it turned out to be something completely different: osteosarcoma. Bone cancer.
The McGuires are one tough bunch, though. They knuckled down, met with oodles of doctors to figure out a treatment plan, and got to work. And since Marsha is a blogger, she kept everyone up-to-date about MacKale’s treatment and their family’s experiences by blogging about them on MacKale’s Journey. Reading her blog, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a more positive-thinking, good-spirited family than the McGuires in handling MacKale’s cancer together as a family.
MacKale’s treatment involved a lot of procedures. First, there was the chemotherapy, which is bad enough on its own but was even more complicated for MacKale because of his hemophilia. It also resulted in more trips to the hospital than the average osteosarcoma treatment.
He toughed out the pain and the nausea and the resulting infections and fevers to persevere through his first rounds of chemo. To compare, the left is a photo of MacKale in fall 2015 as he began his treatment and the right is a more recent photo after six months of chemotherapy.
Then, the next step: removing the cancerous bone and replacing it with a donated bone from an organ donor. After a 12+ hour surgery involving four different surgeons, everything went great. MacKale got a new, cancer-free bone and then got to start working on healing, physical therapy and more chemotherapy.
Throughout MacKale’s treatment, the number of people following his journey grew and grew. Friends and family in his hometown shaved their heads in solidarity with MacKale as he lost his hair to the chemo, including is father Mike and two younger brothers MaGill and McCoy.
But if there is one thing that MacKale (and the rest of the McGuire clan) loves above all, it is the Michigan State Spartans.
This family practically BLEEDS green and white.
News about MacKale and his love for the Spartans spread quickly. First, he got a hat signed by Coach Dantonio and a bunch of Spartan football players. Then MacKale started a friendship with Matt Costello of the Michigan State men’s basketball team. They texted back and forth a lot and have met several times in-person.
But why should I tell you about their friendship? You can watch them describe their friendship from this CBS Sports video that aired back in March.
MacKale’s support doesn’t just come from Matt and the MSU Spartans. He has an entire network of people throughout his hometown of Cadillac, around the state, and across the country.
Those orange Team MacKale t-shirts shout everyone’s support for MacKale, especially on the day of his surgery. The owners of a toy store in Cadillac, Michigan sell the shirts to raise money for bone cancer. Plus, they are an eye-catching display of how much everyone is behind MacKale and his fight. The shirts are still available for purchase if you would like to show your support and help fight bone cancer. If you choose to purchase a shirt, post a photo to Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #TeamMacKale and be sure to tag MacKale’s Journey. All of those tagged social media photos keep the MacKale family going when times get tough.
This week, MacKale had his last round of chemotherapy.
He arrived home yesterday and we were ecstatic to hear read the joyous news on social media.
Now we wait and pray for test results to show the effect that chemo therapy had on MacKale’s cancer. In the meantime, MacKale’s physical therapy is ongoing, trying to rebuild the muscles in his leg. Heck, he’s even getting a little bit of golfing in. But he still needs blood transfusions and platelets to help keep his blood levels where they need to be. Which was not easy with the chemotherapy, let alone the hemophilia.
So, to show our support, Maria and I recently gave blood to the American Red Cross (while wearing our #TeamMacKale t-shirts, of course) during a blood drive at our church. We ate a hearty and healthy breakfast and drank lots of water before heading over there. Maria also snacked on a few raisins ahead of time to boost her iron levels. (She has been turned away for not having enough iron in her system in the past -- it’s a fairly common problem for women.)
We both enjoyed juice and cookies afterwards, then drank plenty of water throughout the day. You don’t want to pass out from giving blood; I almost did once and it wasn’t pleasant. Donating blood does so much for helping people. It can be used whole or it can be separated into its different parts (red blood cells, platelets, and plasma), and given to patients who need it. If you can, you should give.
You can find a blood drive near you on the American Red Cross site.
MacKale has come so far, and there is so much hope for his future. With his relentlessly positive attitude and the support of all those in his life, I am certain he will soon be back to the healthy, hyperactive boy that he was just a few months ago. Each time Marsha writes an update for supports on MacKale’s Journey, she always asks for prayers. We decided to borrow some words from our dear friend Marsha.
“Your prayers are precious to us. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.
Pray … that the chemo kills all the cancer in MacKale’s body, pray that he will soon be able to be mobile and continue to heal. I can only continue to believe that God will turn all of this into something good. Thank you all for being our rock and strength when we get weary!”
To Marsha, Mike, MacKale, McCoy and MaGill … God is good! We are still cheering you on MacKale and praying for you every day. We can’t wait to hear more good news from your family as your journey takes a new turn. We’re on #TeamMacKale and we’re not going anywhere!