This is a tough post for me to write since it effects a family very dear to my heart but it’s incredibly important I do my part to help raise awareness and support for my dear friend Maddie. My friend Doug Hunter and I wanted to share the story of Maddie Watkins, whom I have known many years through St. Albert The Great Catholic Church, my parish family, and my friend, Doug Hunter is a close family friend of Maddie.
Maddie Watkins is the 8-year-old daughter of Tim and Trina Watkins of Reno. Last year she started complaining of headaches. Bad headaches. Through a barrage of tests and surgeries her doctors in Nevada diagnosed ependymoma tumors. The tumors, however, were not presenting themselves as they normally do so she wanted a second opinion.
The tumor biopsy was sent to St. Judes where she was diagnosed with glioma tumors. Glioma was a completely different type of tumor we had not heard of yet. Now having two different diagnoses, Maddie’s neurosurgeon wanted the doctor who invented the stain test, used by both Las Vegas and St. Judes, to weigh in with his opinion. That opinion came back near Thanksgiving and we learned that Maddie, unfortunately, has both types of tumors.
The good news is that we now know what we are fighting. The bad news is that the ependymoma is by far the more serious type of tumors.
Ependymoma is a tumor that arises from the ependyma, a tissue of the central nervous system. Usually, in pediatric cases much like Maddie’s the location is intracranial, while in adults it is spinal. Childhood ependymoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. There are different types of ependymomas. The part of the brain that is affected depends on where the ependymoma forms. The cause of most childhood brain tumors is unknown.
Maddie’s first treatment schedule required six months of chemotherapy followed by two months of radiation. Both therapies were extremely strong, essentially the strongest that someone her age and weight can handle. After two months of chemotherapy, scans were done to see what effect the treatment was having. The news was not good. As Maddie’s tumors have continued to grow so has the need to abandon Chemotherapy and instead move to a more serious level of radiation which will in hopes minimize the size of the tumor allowing for more space.
Unfortunately, radiation is not an option for long-term treatment. It consists of treatment Monday through Friday for 8 weeks. Maddie and her family are still focused on treating these tumors so she can enjoy a long life. As of today, March 28, she is beginning her final phase of radiation treatment. There are seven sessions left. Upon completing radiation Maddie’s doctors will perform scans and an MRI to determine what effect the treatments have had on her tumors. Tim and Trina remain optimistic and pray that the news will be good. Either way though, they are still swinging for the fences and will continue to do so until someone takes the bat away from them. They are researching possible clinical studies that Maddie qualifies for and continue to turn over every stone in their efforts to fight her cancer. Expenses for the family are mounting. Everything from travel and housing to medical bills and everyday expenses keep piling up. We need your help in making life for this Reno Family a little bit easier.
Starting on April 6th, we will be kicking off a series of community fundraising events in an effort to help raise funds for the family. I am asking friends, families and community partners to join us for a family friendly sip and shop event called the Sparkle and Shine, Sip & Shop for Maddie. The event will include light appetizers and refreshments by Rounds Bakery and Jewelry from Premier Designs Jewelry will be on display & for sale. 50% ($14.50) of every “Hope On” necklace sold will be donated to Maddie’s Charity. 20% from all sales during this evenings event will also be donated to Maddie. Guests can view the catalog online or contact Brittney Hardiman at775-342-5499 to place your order early!
Events will continue through April 14th, when we will provide a check to the family of Maddie. Please consider helping out this family by donating directly to their gofund me account or by attending one of these events.
Debbie McCarthy grew up in Burbank, California. She has been an active community member since moving to Reno in 1994. Debbie is the Public Relations and Community Outreach Representative for Nevada Matters Media, and she is also a Northern Nevada Advisory Council Member for Volunteers of America, which operates the shelter programs at the Reno Community Assistance Center.
Debbie enjoys making a difference in the lives of family, friends, and neighbors in our community.