The Harbinger Online

Crossing Cancer

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Like most teenagers, Junior Alex Mayfield has responsibilities. He cleans his room, does his homework, comes home promptly for curfew. But one responsibility is more important to him than all the rest: saving his sister’s life. His bone marrow is a perfect match to his sister, Emily’s, and a successful transplant could put her one step closer to surviving Leukemia.

* * *

Former East student Emily Mayfield went to the doctor on Oct. 3, anxious to get rid of an incessant cough that had bothered her for over two weeks. She was eager to get better so she could continue practicing with her friends on the K-State Women’s Lacrosse Team.

“I tried every kind of medicine to get rid of it but nothing was working,” Emily said.
Emily walked in to the university’s health center where the doctor noticed her face was strangely pale, a common sign of Anemia, and strongly recommended a blood test. Emily did as the doctor instructed and had her blood drawn just before she left to eat.

Her phone buzzed with a call from the doctor 10 minutes following her screening. Upon answering, her doctor greeted her with earth-shattering news.

“We need you to come back.” the doctor said. “Your blood counts are very low, meaning you might need a blood transfusion, or it could be a form of Leukemia.”

In devastation, Emily quickly called her mother to share what she had just learned. They both prayed for her health condition to be anything but the single word that will instantly silence a room full of people: cancer.

The results were not in her favor. After returning to the K-State student health center she was transferred to KU Medical Center for an immediate bone marrow biopsy. To end an excruciatingly long day full of fear of the formidable possibilities, Emily was officially diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

News so unimaginable just 24 hours before can flip a person’s world upside-down. But not Emily. She is ready to fight. She knows she has what it takes. She is ready to win.

* * *

Upon meeting her, one instantly understands why her family knows she can beat this–
she has a smile that radiates with an overpowering form of sincerity diverting attention from her now bald head and acting as a buffer from the battle raging inside of her. And cancer can’t change that.

“She cares about everyone and everything, it’s just crazy,” Alex said.

Emily’s dignified compassion is rivaled with her stubborn resolve. Emily is no stranger to hardship. Ask her why she only ran in one cross country race her freshman year at East and she will tell you a modest description of her recovery from a car accident. She may or may not tell you about how she went into a coma for a day and a half after being hit by a car while crossing the street. How she spent four days in the intensive care unit or how she had to get up at eight in the morning and stay until five at night for two months in rehab relearning to walk..How doctors wouldn’t allow her to run by herself and how her father and brother would go on runs with her training her for the race falling at the end of the cross country season. It didn’t matter that she would run for the C-team or finish at the back of the pack. All that mattered was crossing the finish line on the same cross country course that her father had completed during his days as a Jayhawk cross country runner — and she wanted to be a part of that. When race day came, she was ready. Emily made her high school debut on the most rigorous course of the season at Rim Rock Farm. But things like that don’t phase her. She simply doesn’t give up.

Today, Emily finds herself doing laps on a new terrain; she walks 18 loops around the KU Medical Center 4th floor hallway, dragging her I.V. along with her, no matter how the bad the side-effects her second round of chemotherapy are ailing her. She knows from cross country what it takes to get there. She knows it gets worse before it gets better. But with her family by her side every second of the way, she knows she can finish.

Her family’s support is helping her to keep her trademarked outgoing attitude–but it’s also friends and even just the people who have heard her story that are assisting by praying for her recovery. They’re brightening up her hospital windows with messages painted across the glass encouraging her to stay strong. Over 400 of Alex’s friends “liked” a post asking for the support of Emily as she undergoes her fight of AML.

“The majority of these people I don’t even know and they are here to support me,” Emily said. “It was just really cool to see.”

Along with support from Facebook she has letters of encouragement floating in through CaringBridge, a website set up for patients with any type of illness making it easy for friends to write prayers and testaments of her admirable character. Over 230 postings have accumulated on her CaringBridge Guestbook from friends, family and supporters all assuring, encouraging and praying for her. Her father, Bruce Mayfield is quick to make a point saying it’s not about the number of supporters, but the sentiments in their messages.

“People recover better and faster when they have support of their friends and family in their thoughts and prayers than those who don’t,” Bruce said. “It may be a spiritual component, it may be a physiological component that is not understood by natural science yet, but there is no question that it [support] makes a difference and we intend to make all the difference we can.”

Although all the attention is on Emily, she wants to focus on a different task at hand: getting more people on the blood marrow donor list. Registering is a painless cheek swab that takes less than two minutes and it can make that difference for a others in desperate need of a match.

There isn’t a second of the day Alex isn’t thinking about Emily. She depends on him and he wants more than anything to cure this. With a possible antidote in his veins, he’s ready to endure the painful injections in his stomach to boost his marrow count. He will sit there calmly, but anxiously waiting for five hours as they transfer his bone marrow to her. He’s ready to watch her claim victory. Because this family simply won’t give up.

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