April 10, 2013 - Jamie Broecker was at work last month when her daughter's doctor left a message on her voicemail.
"The doctor almost gave me a heart attack," said Broecker, a 1996 Brandon High School graduate. "She left a message and said she needed to talk about Madison's test results. I was a basketcase."
With mounting anxiety, the terrified mother called the doctor back and learned Madison Chind, who recently turned 6, has a thyroid issue. Everything else on the tests was clear. The news was a relief.
"She will have to take medication for the rest of her life, but it's nothing compared to what we've been through," said Broecker.
Madison's thyroid issue is caused by the radiation treatment she had for neuroblastoma, a nerve cancer she was diagnosed with at stage IV in July 2011. The Citizen originally shared Madison's story just over a year ago when she was the poster child for the Ronald McDonald House, a non-profit organization that provides a place for families with seriously ill children to stay near hospitals.
After 12 months of traditional cancer treatment that included brain surgery, chemo therapy, radiation, and bone marrow and stem cell transplants, and another six-month experimental antibodies therapy treatment, doctors declared Madison in remission in December.
Last month she had her 3-month checkup, in which she had scans and bloodwork over the course of three consecutive days. The next week Jamie Broecker got that all-important call. In turn, she called her mother, Madison's grandmother.
Debbie Broecker, who drives a school bus in the Brandon School District, answered her phone and told her daughter she couldn't talk, she was working. What Jamie told her mother next stopped her.
"She said, 'Madison is clear,'" remembers Debbie now, face filled with joy. "I had to pull off the side of the road. Tears were running down my face and my aide said, 'What's wrong?' I was just so happy. It builds up for all this time, and you're just holding your breath."
Debbie and Jamie can finally breathe freely again. The little girl they love so much is free of the disease that had robbed her of more than a year of a normal childhood, including her hair, her first year of school, and swimming, one of the things she enjoys most.
Debbie noted that before she lost her hair to chemotherapy, Madison was blonde. Now her hair has grown back and she is a brunette.
"She said to me, 'Grandma, my hair is brown,'" recalls Debbie. "I said, 'You have hair!' I feel very fortunate. She has gained 10 pounds, the first time in two years she has gained weight. She weighed 28 or 29 pounds all that time she had cancer. Now she is into biscuits and gravy."
Jamie said Madison is looking forward to summer—the first one in two years where she will be able to swim in the pool and at the beach and go camping. The little girl loves the water and is even taking about two baths per day, a luxury she couldn't fully enjoy during her cancer treatment because of a central line she had for chemo.
Jamie and Debbie are so grateful for all the support they received from family, friends, groups and even strangers during Madison's illness. The Rainbow Connection provided Madison with a dream-come-true trip to Disney World in late November, during which Jamie said the non-profit organization made sure Madison had "the time of her life." She also praised "Give Kids the World" and "Angels of Hope."
The Lions Club visited Madison on a monthly basis, too, Debbie said, bringing baskets of goodies and to see if she needed anything.
"This experience has changed us," said Debbie. "It really renews your faith in people. Every time Madison comes over, we pray together and thank God for how fortunate we are… Before, working in the school, things are always in an uproar. Now it's like, 'Oh well, we will survive, nothing else matters.' If you can pick one thing in the world to be OK, this is it."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville