DARLINGTON – The 9th Annual “Virtual” Bunny Hop 5K Run/Walk will be held Saturday, April 3. The Bunny Hop, put on by the Dora Ritter Wellness Center, will be raising money for Meghan Douglas, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 unfavorable Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last year.
At 21 years old, cancer was the last thing on Meghan Douglas’ mind. In October 2020, Douglas was in a two week quarantine but had been experiencing chest pains on and off for three weeks.
While attending virtual classes online via Clark University, Douglas mentioned the pain to one of her professors who told her to get it checked out.
“I do suffer with anxiety and thought it was just that but I went to the doctor just to see,” Douglas said.
On October 21 she had blood work and a chest x-ray done at Southwest Health Center in Platteville. While waiting in the waiting room, the doctor called her mother, Kory, stating they had found something on the x-ray and wanted to get a chest CT scan done right away.
Doctors found a mass 12.3x5x8.1 centimeters big, about the size of a pear, on the left side of her chest between her left lung and heart.
“No one thought it was cancer at first. I appeared healthy on the outside,” Douglas said.
The next day she was scheduled to see a cardiothoracic surgeon in Madison and they scheduled a core biopsy surgery to go in and take pieces of the mass to determine what it was. Her blood work came back finding her blood tumor markers were higher that normal but nothing that definitively showed it was cancer.
Her core biopsy was done on October 30 and the days following were quite emotional.
“It was very painful for a while. It was hard because I couldn’t do things normally like hold my little cousin as she showed me her Halloween costume,” Douglas remembered.
Then on November 2, her diagnoses came in the form of a MyChart notification. MyChart is an application that lets one access their medical records, ask the doctor questions, review test results and more. Douglas was unaware of what the information was telling her so she asked a few people with more medical knowledge.
“All I saw was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but wasn’t sure what everything else meant.”
She spoke to the professor that told her to get checked out in the first place and that professor broke the news to her.
“She said you have cancer and started crying. There was a reason why I got the diagnoses the way I did. [My professor] was the one that said go to the doctor and she was the one to tell me I had cancer. I believe everything happens for a reason.”
After talking to her mom about the diagnoses, they called her primary doctor, Dr. Carr in Platteville, where he personally hand picked her oncologist in Madison.
“It was all very scary.”
Next she had a PET (positron emission tomography) scan to look better at the mass on November 6 and then had her first appointment with her oncologist on November 13. He diagnosed her with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and it was unfavorable due to the size and location of the tumor and she was in Stage 2.
“It was like a reality check. It was official. I had a plan and would be starting treatment.”
He didn’t want to delay treatment due to the size and location of the tumor. She would be having six months of chemotherapy with six cycles, one cycle equaling two treatments, for a total of 12 treatments every other Friday.
Her first treatment began on November 20. It was tough going into the treatments, not just because it was for cancer but it was all happening during the pandemic.
“What was really hard was that no one was able to go to the appointments or treatments with me. My support system would drop me off and would have to come back after the four hours and pick me up.”
But she knew her family was with her no matter what. Douglas has a connection with eagles. Whenever she sees an eagle, she thinks about her grandparents, Bob and Rose Burgess.
“On the way home from finding out my diagnoses, I saw one. I have seen a bald eagle every single time I have had a treatment or a doctors appointment.”
Only one time she didn’t but she later discovered she had taken a blanket with her to her treatment that she had made for her grandmother. She knew that they were still there looking down on her.
Douglas had another PET scan after her fourth treatment where they found that the mass had shrunk.
“It had improvement more than we had hoped.”
Some days are good and some days are bad. Douglas said the first treatment was the hardest as her body began to adjust to the medications. But usually after a couple of days she feels back to normal.
During her treatments she is usually working on homework for her classes or sleeping. Douglas is working on her bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minor in psychology at Clark University. She also continues to work at the Lafayette Manor a couple hours a week. She will finish her minor in the fall and will begin her nursing classes again in the spring of 2022, with the hope to graduate in May 2023.
“I am fortunate enough to be able to keep up on my studies. My professors have been working with me and I am thankful for their help. My professors and classmates can’t wait until I’m back and I can’t either.”
She stated how she has always wanted to be a nurse. She thought she wanted to be an obstetrics nurse after doing her OB clinicals and helping someone give birth.
“But when Carson (Hartwig) was diagnosed (with Osteosarcoma) and I was diagnosed, I knew I was meant to be in pediatric oncology.”
Her dream is to work in the pediatric oncology unit in Madison.
“I have big dreams but my short term goal is to be cancer free.”
Her last treatment will take place on April 23. Sometime in May she will have another PET scan to determine the next course of action.
Douglas is so thankful and grateful for the support she had received from the community of Darlington and the surrounding communities. She can’t thank her primary doctor and nurse enough for all they have done for her during her journey.
“I am in awe of everything. I am just so thankful for the love and support that it is hard to put into words.”
She continues to have a smile on her face and wants everyone to be as positive as she is.
“You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have. I look at myself in the mirror everyday and say ‘you can do it. One day at a time. No one fights alone’.”
Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, there will be no organized run/walk. People are invited to participate in the run/walk at anytime of the day. Simply go outside or get on a treadmill, take a photo and post it to the event page on Facebook. No registration is required. Along with the virtual 5K run/walk, the Easter Bunny will be at the Johnson Public Library drive through from 9-11 a.m. The bunny’s helpers will hand out Easter bags for kids through the drive-up window while supplies last. Social distancing must be practiced; adults and children should remain in their vehicles and waive to the bunny.