“She is handling this better than most 11 year olds would,” said Amber Markstone, the mother of Mackenzie Asher.
Mackenzie is a fifth-grade student at Yukon’s Independence Elementary School.
She missed most of last school year after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
In August, just as her fifth-grade year was about to begin, she was hit with the news that the leukemia had returned.
AML is an aggressive form of leukemia.
“She’s has good days and she has days where she worries about going back as an inpatient, and losing her hair. But she’s a fighter and she’s willing to take on anything to beat the cancer,” her mother said.
Mackenzie was initially diagnosed with the disease in June 2016. She underwent an aggressive form of chemotherapy as well as a stem-cell treatment last October, her father, Jayson Asher said.
She was declared to be in remission in February.
In August, while going through routine blood tests, doctors discovered bad news — the cancer had returned.
“We did a marrow test and discovered the cancer had come back,” Asher said.
It came back with a vengeance.
When she was diagnosed originally, it was found in 20 percent of her marrow. This time the number is much higher — 70 percent.
“We’ve been battling it since 2016. We have our good days and bad days. This is every parent’s nightmare,” Asher said.
He said that while he sees the brave girl who just want to do what everyone else is doing, he knows she is scared.
So is he.
Asher said every time he walks through the doors of Children’s Hospital at the OU Medical Center, he has a lump in his throat.
“She’s handled this with a level of grace and dignity. She’s kind of our rock. … She is positive and upbeat. She smiles every day. It does get our mind off of it,” he said.
Her mother said Mackenzie is one of the first to befriend other patients at the hospital. She brings gifts and flowers and talks with them.
“We have raised an incredible kid,” Markstone said. “She has a terrific spirit. She is always thinking of other people first.”
Mackenzie initially underwent a stem-cell procedure last October. She received an additional dosage on Friday.
It was from her mother.
Markstone said that while a perfect 10 for 10 match wasn’t available, she was an 8 for 10 match.
Some of the cells that were harvested in 2016 were frozen so they could be used again if necessary.
Unfortunately, they were needed.
“It was devastating to hear the cancer has relapsed. We have hope. There are clinical trials,” Markstone said.
Asher said it is likely that Makenzie will return to Children’s Hospital during the first week of November for another intensive round of chemotherapy.
Until then, the family is trying to grab as many memories as possible.
MAKE A WISH
Mackenzie is on the list to receive a Make A Wish vacation.
Her dream was to meet Sylvester Stallone. However, it does not appear that will happen before she re-enters the hospital.
Her second choice is a Youtuber named Jake Paul. However, even the timing of that meeting may be difficult.
A third choice would be a family shopping event in Los Angeles.
“We are working on a wish for Mackenzie,” said Bradley Barghols, the president and chief executive officer for Make A Wish Oklahoma.
He said the nonprofit group has a goal of making her wish come true quickly.
Meanwhile, the family is making the most of each day.
They already have visited a farm, where Mackenzie got an opportunity to play with animals.
They plan to take a hot-air balloon ride, and she got to spend a day making cupcakes at Buttersweet Cupcakes.
The Yukon community has come through overwhelmingly for the 11-year-old.
Skyview Elementary hosted a lemonade fundraiser on Friday where dozens of people turned out, while Buttersweet hosted an art sale.
This week has been proclaimed Mackenzie Asher week at Independence, where they are doing fundraising events throughout the week for their ailing classmate.
At Skyridge, Niki Asher said the turnout was better than expected. Even the fire department showed up.
“We’ve had a great turnout. I am very surprised. We had a ton of people here. It was far better than I had expected,” she said.
Niki Asher said the family remains optimistic about Mackenzie’s prognosis, despite the daunting fact that her daughter has relapsed.
“She was upset about it at first, but she understands this what you’ve go to do. We are trying to spend the next few weeks trying to have fun, living life,” she said.
“We are hopeful.”