Bubbly and athletic, Megan Evans, 17, is looking forward to her senior year at St. Pius X High School in Houston and to competing with her traveling cheer team; after that, she’d like to study to become a nurse. By all accounts, Megan’s future looks bright.
Rewind 10 years and things looked dimmer for Megan. That’s when Megan’s parents discovered what they thought was a blood clot on the 7-year-old’s arm. To the family’s devastation, the discoloration turned out to be a sign of Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare childhood cancer that forms in the bone or soft tissue of the leg, hip or arm.
“I knew that there was something wrong,” says Maureen Evans, Megan’s mom. “But I never dreamed in a million years that they would tell us she had cancer.”
That diagnosis in April 2000 kicked off a year of hospital visits, surgeries to remove the tumor and reconstruct Megan’s arm and chemotherapy.
“When the chemotherapy came around every three weeks I got really sick,” Megan says. But when her blond hair fell out after the second treatment, Megan didn’t sweat it. “Being seven I didn’t know this was a ‘oh my gosh, you can die from this’ type of thing,” she says. “I just kind of went with it.”
Soon after her diagnosis, Megan heard about Camp Star Trails, an overnight summer camp in nearby Washington County, Texas that offers kids undergoing treatment at M.D. Anderson Hospital an opportunity to try traditional camp activities with medical staff close at hand. Despite having had complications after her first two rounds of chemo, Megan was determined to go to camp, but Maureen was hesitant.
“My first thought was ‘No way am I going to let her go,'”î says Maureen. But after learning that there was a staff of doctors and nurses at the ready 24 hours a day, she felt better. “Megan wanted to go, so I went with it on a wing and a prayer,” she says.
The risk paid off and Megan had a great time–the horseback riding, fishing, arts and crafts and rock climbing were a welcome alternative to sting of needles and nausea of chemo. Later that year, Megan got more good news: The cancer was gone. But not forgotten–Megan made sure of that. This summer, Megan signed up to be a counselor at Camp Star Trails, helping other kids going through treatment.
“It was a unique thing to be there as a survivor,” says Megan. “Some of the campers were pretty surprised that I had dealt with something like what they or their family memeber had gone through. I think it showed for some of the kids that everything will be ok.”
Megan’s big heart and give-back attitude doesn’t surprise Maureen. “Megan has never looked back on her past experience having had cancer in a negative way,” says Maureen. “She even recruited some of her friends from her high school to be counselors as well. Megan has a huge heart.”