Dance classes, reading, being a big sister and having a princess birthday party — this is the life of 8-year-old Madison “Madi” Taylor. No one would know that only five years ago this bright-eyed, curly-haired girl full of giggles was fighting for her life.
Madi’s father, Pat, remembers clearly the day his daughter was diagnosed at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital.
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,” Pat says.
“He allowed us plenty of time to ask questions. I’ll never forget that. The care team has been there each step of the way.”
Family sticks together
Pat and his wife, Heather, clung to each other as they supported their daughter, then 3 years old, through three years of chemotherapy. Despite not feeling well, Madi always seemed to carry a smile, Heather recalls.
With her “Sassy Kitty” doll accompanying her to each appointment and activity, Madi made friends with fellow pediatric patients and mimicked Zweidler-McKay 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 MD Anderson families facing cancer.
Pat serves 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 also is parent liaison on the children’s hospital Advisory Group that consists of Board of Visitors members and others interested in childhood cancers.
Meanwhile, Heather serves on the Anderson Network Steering Committee, supporting and developing programs to benefit patients and caregivers at MD Anderson.
As for Madi, she gives hope to other families facing cancer, using her smile and story. She is featured in a new marketing campaign for the Children’s Cancer Hospital.