Madi Taylor, Leukemia

Dance classes, reading, being a big sister, and having a princess birthday party  – this is the life of 10-year-old Madison “Madi” Taylor. No one would know that only a few years ago this bright-eyed, curly-haired girl full of giggles was fighting for her life.

Madi’s father, Pat, still remembers clearly the day his daughter was diagnosed at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital. What presented as a pain in Madi’s arm and a fever that wouldn’t go away, turned out to be acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer.

“When Madi was first diagnosed, Dr. Patrick [Zweidler-McKay] sat down and talked with our family. He spent several hours discussing what was happening to Madi and what her treatment would include,” says Pat. “He allowed us plenty of time to ask questions. I’ll never forget that. They’ve been there each step of the way.”

Pat and his wife, Heather, clung to each other as they supported their daughter, then 3 years old, through three years of chemotherapy treatments. Despite not feeling well, Madi always seemed to carry a smile on her face, recalls Heather.

With her “Sassy Kitty” doll accompanying her to each appointment and activity, Madi made friends with fellow pediatric patients and mimicked Dr. Patrick by giving her doll check-ups each day. Her favorite activity at the hospital was the weekly Bingo games hosted by MD Anderson volunteers.

With Madi in remission, the Taylors now use their experience to help other families facing cancer at MD Anderson. Pat has served on the Family Advisory Council, a group of parents and staff who meet monthly to discuss ways to improve every child’s experience at the Children’s Cancer Hospital. He has also served as the parent liaison on the Children’s Cancer Hospital Advisory Group that consists of Board of Visitor members and childhood cancer advocates. Meanwhile, Heather has served on the Anderson Network Steering Committee supporting and developing programs to benefit patients and caregivers at MD Anderson.

As for Madi, she is using her smile and story to give hope to other children with cancer. She is featured currently in a marketing campaign for the Children’s Cancer Hospital.