Family has new wish for McKenna
Written by TARA KELLER Sentinel Staff Writer
Thursday, 14 November 2013 10:57
McKenna May didn't get to go trick-or-treating.
|McKenna May (Photo provided)
She missed it.
When her hometown of Haskins was celebrating Halloween, she was an inpatient at Mott's Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. When the hospital had trick-or-treat on the oncology floor, McKenna was back at home.
Lori Helppie wasn't going to let her 5-year-old granddaughter miss out on anything.
"We were at home and McKenna came up to us," Helppie said, referring to her and her daughter, McKenna's mom Whitney Hughes. "She wanted purple hair. She asked us to dye it before it all fell out."
Helppie didn't hesitate.
"She wanted purple hair," Helppie said. "She got purple hair - any chance to make her happy."
Those chances are few and far between now. After battling leukemia for two years, McKenna relapsed at the beginning of October.
"The cancer was very subtle this time," Helppie said. "It was quick and it was sneaky."
McKenna had previously been in remission for a little over three years.
During that time, she was able to go to Disney World.
The media coverage leading up to that event went viral as McKenna's father, William May of Toledo, refused consent for a Make-A-Wish trip.
In the end, McKenna was able to go thanks to donations from people here and around the nation.
Her mom and grandma are hoping McKenna can rally again this time around.
"When you relapse with cancer, once you've had chemo, the cancer can come back more aggressive," Helppie said. "You don't know what you're going to get."
Helppie, along with her husband, spent the month of October in Michigan to be with McKenna as she received another round of cancer treatment.
McKenna's mom and little sister Shayleigh stayed at home so Hughes could work and go to school.
"We had to decide who was going with whom," Helppie said. "We had to divide and conquer."
The family quickly realized once again that dividing and conquering comes at a cost.
Although McKenna's treatments are covered by insurance, the out-of-pocket expenses are adding up.
Because of the steroids, McKenna eats a tremendous amount.
"Sometimes she won't eat the hospital food," Helppie said. "In a span of nine days, she went through 66 tacos."
That, accompanied by the cost of gas, parking, medical supplies for their home in Haskins, and food for themselves, has put a strain on the family.
"There is a huge financial demand on the family and people don't realize how much cancer costs," Helppie said. "We're doing the best we can."
This past week, Helppie found out McKenna's fight is about to get longer.
McKenna is eligible for a bone marrow transplant and doctors are searching the databases for a match.
So far, no one in her immediate family is a match.
"The transplant is a very scary avenue to be looking at," Helppie said. "But if that's what's in her best interest, we have to do it."
Friends of the family are also looking out for her best interest.
A family friend set up a profile for McKenna on GoFundMe.com under the tab "McKenna's Fight." So far, people have donated $1,760 on the site.
In addition to monetary donations, gift cards to stores like Kroger and Walmart are welcome.
"Gas is the main thing," Hughes said. "It's $40 every trip."
When she's not working or attending classes to become an ultrasound technician, Hughes drives to Michigan to be with her daughter.
"We'd appreciate anything," Hughes said. "Anything helps."
McKenna's kindergarten teacher Angie Bechstein enjoyed having McKenna in class and is doing her part to help.
"I had her for one month. She is such a sweet soul. We got the awful news that she had relapsed," Bechstein said. "I felt so bad for that family and wanted to help."
During the annual Fall Fest tomorrow at McKenna's school, Ostego Elementary, people can participate in a "cake walk."
"It's kind of like musical chairs and the winner gets a baked good," Bechstein said. "All proceeds go to McKenna."
The game will take place at 6 p.m.
For now, the family is playing the waiting game.
When she's not dyeing McKenna's hair purple, Helppie is looking for other ways to make her granddaughter happy while they wait for a possible bone marrow transplant.
That includes celebrating an early Christmas if the doctors say things aren't looking good.
"We have all the Christmas presents bought, and if we find out anything bad, the tree's going up and we're having it early," Helppie said. "That way, at least we can give her a Christmas."
Donations for McKenna and her family are accepted at GoFundMe.com under the tab "McKenna's Fight" and at P.O. Box 198 Haskins, OH 43525.