Teen Faces Hodgkin Lymphoma with Positive Attitude
By Orlando Health
Madison was at school when she noticed an ache in her neck and a small bump. She snapped a photo, sent it to her mom and asked, “Should I be worried?’
“But it never really got bigger or hurt, so I forgot about it,” says Madison, who was a high school freshman at the time.
Several months later things changed. Her neck started feeling stiff again, and the lump became tender to the touch.
Madison knew there was a family history of lymphoma, but that was a disease for grownups. Her dad was 32 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Although he’s now cancer-free, the memory was enough to frighten her parents, who quickly scheduled a doctor’s appointment for their only daughter.
When the pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist saw Madison, he examined her and ran tests. As soon as the results came back, he called her mother and insisted Madison go straight to Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for evaluation.
Madison was creating a poster for a friend’s birthday party when her mom told her they needed to go to the emergency room. That was the last time Madison felt like a typical teenager for nearly seven months.
Once they arrived at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer, doctors and team members took care of Madison and helped distract her from the many tests and procedures she was having.
But then came sobering news. Madison’s diagnosis was life-threatening: She had stage II-A Hodgkin lymphoma.
What’s Happening and Why
I always thought, going through this, I would like to be able to help other people going through it because that's what ultimately helped me out. – Madison, Cancer Patient
Even with so much information swirling, Madison and her family say they always knew what was happening and why.
Madison underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and 14 rounds of radiation. While most of her classmates were at home and attending school virtually because of COVID-19, the Longwood teen was passing time in her hospital room.
Specialists from the hospital’s Child Life Program — dedicated to helping patients have the best healthcare experience possible through education, play and personalized support — made sure Madison stayed engaged. The team brought in robot activities and facilitated music therapy.
“I loved doing music therapy. I learned how to play the ukulele in my time during treatment,” Madison says.
Madison was declared cancer-free in fall 2020.
Her parents, Anthony and Tara, were grateful for the compassion doctors and team members showed them and Madison.
“You can never prepare for it, but at least Madison had an idea of what was going to happen,” Anthony says.
Advocating for Others
Madison, still cancer-free, has returned to competitive cheerleading and looks forward to traveling with her teammates again.
Her family hopes to travel again soon, too. “We're a very close family. We love to play board games. We have family movie nights. I'm with my family a lot,” says Madison, who has a younger brother.
Madison also has become an advocate for lymphoma awareness. Her first virtual fundraiser raised $7,000 to benefit lymphoma and leukemia research and treatments.
“I always thought, going through this, I would like to be able to help other people going through it because that's what ultimately helped me out,” Madison said.
She also has a fresh outlook on life.
“I always try to live every day like it's my last,” she says. “I just try not to take things for granted. I have realized there are bigger things going on.”