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Madeline Renee Harrill, known to everyone as Maddie (as she was quick to inform you), never showed any signs of being ill until Saturday September 29, 2007 when she awoke with a severe stomach ache. By that following Monday she had undergone an emergency CT scan in which a softball size mass was discovered on her bladder. Emergency surgery was scheduled for the next morning. In the meantime doctors were preparing us for everything - the mass could be a benign tumor or it could be something more serious like Rhabdomyosarcoma. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare Childhood Cancer that affects about 250 patients a year nationwide. Well . . . it was Rhabdo . . .
After initially being considered in remission and already completing 31 chemo treatments and 22 radiation treatments, her cancer relapsed and grew very aggressively in June 2008. On July 8th her surgeon tried to remove the mass and after a couple of hours of surgery, Maddie's cancer was considered incurable. A tumor had essentially "calcified" (not the correct term but the best I can do) around her intestine and could not be removed during surgery. Additionally, dozens of smaller tumors were identified in her abdomen. After much prayer and consideration, we chose to keep her comfortable and July 13th she passed away. Maddie would have completed her cancer treatments this Labor Day.
We pray that we never forget the lessons we have learned during this detour in life; That we inform everyone about Childhood Cancer Research and instill the importance it deserves. Just a short year ago, when someone mentioned Childhood Cancer, I thought of Leukemia. Little did I know that there were so many other childhood cancers that are just as important! We always knew that Maddie was special and everyone that met her could vouch for that. Her life touched so many and we will strive to never allow her story to end.
For more information on Childhood Cancer please visit www.curesearch.org. We, along with another family here in Knoxville, who also lost their daughter to this same horrible disease almost three weeks before Maddie passed away, have started The Butterfly Fund. It is a non profit fund set up under East Tennessee Foundations to raise money and awareness for Childhood Cancer Research.
For more information on Maddie’s story you can visit www.carepages.com. Her care page is called Maddieharrill.
Maddie was 5 years old when she passed away
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After reading Maddie's story, please know that I am thinking of you and your family. As the TN Team Leader for CureSearch, I live in Nashville and am trying to bring TN families together to raise awareness throughout our state. I also have materials such as a proclamation from Governor Bredesen and the Childhood Chapter of the TN State Cancer Plan that I would be glad to share with you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a part of our statewide efforts - as together our voices will be heard.