UTICA — It had been quite a while since she had seen her classmates and friends, so last week’s visit to Utica Elementary School was a happy return for Magi McCullough. The Utica fifth-grader was invited to a special ceremony where her fellow elementary students presented her with a check from money they collected through fundraisers, all to help with expenses she is incurring for cancer treatment.
It was on her 11th birthday in September 2011 that Magi was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, a non-Hodgkin lymphoma which is a cancer of the lymphatic system. Magi had one day complained to her mother, Mari, that she had a terrible pain in her elbow. As the pain was not going away, Magi was taken to a doctor where an MRI brought up the suspicion of cancer. A second MRI later confirmed the cancer.
Magi’s lymphoma affected her bone, but did not penetrate the bone marrow, which would have constituted leukemia. “In the past several years, Children’s Hospital has done so much research and found that children with lymphoma have a greater survival rate if they are treated the same as those with leukemia,” Mari McCullough told the News.
Magi then began chemotherapy treatments, which doctors say are the worst for the first six to eight months. She is in the final weeks of this stage which includes chemo treatments through a port in her chest, plus chemo pills and steroids. A PET scan is scheduled soon, “Which will let us know what the tumor is doing,” said Mari. “If we get a good PET scan, they will put her on a dosage of chemo pills, and she’ll go in once a month for a spinal tap and intravenous chemo, and that should last for two years.”
Not able to attend school since last fall, Magi has been able to go online and keep up with her school work. Some days are tough as she might not have the energy to do the work. “She’s doing the best she can. She has a B average, so we’re pretty tickled. We’re proud of her,” said Mari.
Fundraising efforts then began at Utica Elementary School in support of Magi. A dodgeball tournament was scheduled and organized by physical education teacher Pam Mercer where participants would pay an entry fee to participate. T-shirts that read “My friend Magi fights like a girl” were sold with proceeds going to Magi.