Madison Knebusch was an active 8th grader - running track and playing competitive basketball. She began to have difficulty breathing. After numerous visits to the ER and to various physicians, a diagnosis had still not been reached. She was losing weight and her symptoms seemed to get worse instead of better. Madison's pediatrician, after discussion with Madison's parents, Shannon and Levi, decided to admit her to the hospital for some tests. On May 1, 2010, Madison received some difficult news. CAT scan results showed a large mass in the center of her throat. She was literally breathing through an airway the size of a coffee straw! After emergency surgery to open her airway and a tracheotomy, Madison was diagnosed with a cancer so rare that there has never been an example of it recorded in medical history. She had a tumor in her throat and five suspicious spots on her lungs.
Madison started chemotherapy on June 1, 2010. She was scheduled for seven rounds of chemo and 25 doses of radiation to shrink the tumor so that it could be removed. Started with the second round of chemo, Madison required two units of blood to counter the drop in her hemoglobin and platelet counts. Madison was hospitalized again with an infection and received another four units of blood during her two-week stay. Upon completion of her radiation and three more rounds of chemo, Madison had her first major surgery. It took 12-1/2 hours to remove the tumor. She received another two units of blood. During her eleven day stay in the hospital that followed, she received another four units. It was becoming very obvious that transfusions were going to be a major part of her treatment. She continued her chemo and recovered from her surgery but her battle with cancer was not over. The cancer came back in her lungs - more major surgeries and more transfusions. Following these surgeries, everyone believed that Madison would be celebrating her 16th birthday being cancer free! The week before her birthday, she was back in the hospital with more bad news. But, she told the doctors she was coming home to celebrate her birthday! So, on November 5, we had a birthday bash to celebrate and Madison did what she always did best - she put a smile on her face and she celebrated family, friends and the blessings that she did have! Shortly thereafter, she began chemo again to battle the rapidly growing tumors in her lungs. She took a break from it to celebrate Christmas and then she went on vacation with her mom, her best friend and her best friends mom - they always wanted to see New York! Again, she struggled through the pain and sickness to enjoy the trip. Once home, the news did not improve. It was clear that there was nothing more that could be done. The cancer had metastasized to her brain. At her wishes, her family wanted to take her home to share her final days.
On January 12, 2012, Madison Knebusch left her cancer behind, finished her race and went to be with her Maker. At 16 years old, she touched all of us with her example of life, love for others, grace under adversity and her faith in God. For those of us who had the privilege of knowing her, we are better because she was in our life!
Madison chose to donate her body to Texas Tech Health Science Center for research. It was her hope that it would help the medical community find a cure for this terrible disease so that others would not have to suffer. "Madison remained full of hope, loved others, and displayed bravery in her fight! She faced this challenge with her head held high and never backed down from the fight. Thank you so much for giving unselfishly so that she could stay strong amidst her battle!"
Shannon and Levi