MADISON, Wis. - Kelly Moeller is the kind of person who acts like she’s known you for years when she's just met you.
She greets you -- or meets you -- with a hug. She quickly divulges stories about her road trips out West. She shares hilariously inappropriate jokes about her radiation and reconstructive surgery.
She explains why she keeps her faith about her cancer.
“You have to be happy to the best of your ability. Not every day, but it kept it positive. And it's hard to make a really negative experience positive,” Kelly said.
A little less than three years ago, Kelly and her daughter, Meagyn, moved to Madison. Kelly discovered she had blood clots in her lungs. She sent Meagyn back to Colorado to live with her son while she started treatments for stage 4 cancer.
“It's a blessing, and it's a weird kind of blessing. It's not what I expected for my life, but you got to take it and ... know that there's a reason. Without a reason, there'd be no reason to fight it,” Kelly said.
Meagyn was her reason, and soon enough, they were back together.
Meagyn started vomiting at the same time every day. Doctors said diagnosed it as anxiety and PTSD, a result of mom’s cancer.
Then one day earlier this year, Meagyn collapsed, and the diagnosis changed dramatically.
"(The doctor told us) 'She's got swelling on the brain, and we're going to have to drain the fluid, and I can tell you right now that I'm pretty sure there's a tumor back there.' Even without the CT (scan), he could tell,” Kelly said. “And it was the size of an apricot.”
For the next 19 hours, surgeons worked to remove the tumor from Meagyn’s brain. Kelly had a follow up appointment for her cancer the same day.
“And she came out and she said, 'How did the scan go?' And I said, 'Well they found a tumor,'" Kelly said. "And she said, 'I'm not talking about me, mom. How was your scan?'"
Since then, the two have spent weeklong stints in American Family Children’s Hospital while Meagyn undergoes chemotherapy.
At first, due to some additional problems that came with the cancer, Meagyn couldn’t walk or talk. Her means of communication were limited to finger movements and waves.
“It was terrifying when they came out and said it was cancer, and they didn't know how the outcome was going to be,” Kelly said. “I will say that being a parent of a child with cancer is a million times harder than being a person with cancer, because there is nothing you can do except the little things you can.”
Meagyn still can’t eat most foods. She has a tracheal tube and IVs surrounding her in her small hospital room. Luckily, her mom is there too.
“I want to make sure people don't take anything for granted because you don't know what might happen at all,” Meagyn said.
The 11-year-old admits that sometimes it’s difficult to have a positive attitude about the circumstances.
“Sometimes, when I look back in the past, like when I could walk and run,” Meagyn said.
But Meagyn, the girl who doctors said wouldn't be mobile for at least another six months, is already walking with the help of her mom.
Kelly and Meagyn both shaved their heads. They’re known for performing dance routines in the hospital hallways. They find small reasons to laugh and play practical jokes on one another. In fact, the laughter is what is fills the room more than anything else.
“Childhood cancer is a different monster,” Kelly said. “All of these people who are here with us are fighting for their kids.”
Both of them have a perspective that most would find rare in situations far less serious.
“Today is a good day for both of us, and it's a day that we got to take right now and not take it for granted,” Kelly said.
“Every day is pretty much a blessing,” Meagyn said.
One of those blessings, according to Kelly, is that she can relate to her daughter.
“I was fortunate to go through this first. I got to go through cancer first,” Kelly added.
It’s the last place most people would want to be, but being together is the only thing that matters.
“She's fighting, and this is her work because she doesn't give up,” Kelly explained.
If you want to help Meagyn and Kelly in their journey, visit the GoFundMe page that has been set up to cover some of their medical bills.
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