At 13 years old, Megan Bugg’s life would be forever changed due to a devastating cancer diagnosis.
On Christmas morning 2014, Megan noticed an odd lump on her arm. Doctors told Megan she had an aggressive stage 4 cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS), a cancer that attacks the body’s soft tissue. Just one month later, the eighth grader began 54 weeks of intense chemotherapy and radiation, something Megan remembers as being “absolutely brutal.”
“I would have five-day stays in the hospital, getting chemotherapy every single day; a really hard, aggressive therapy. It felt like poison going through my body,” Megan said.
Since 2015, Megan has relapsed three times resulting in 90 weeks of treatment and over 120 radiation treatments on six different areas of her body. The side effects of these treatments took a toll on Megan’s body, leaving her with nerve damage, memory loss, severe nausea, stomach pain and more. The treatments were harsh, and nearly cost Megan her life when she contracted sepsis and was in the intensive care unit for two weeks.
This difficult battle helped Megan, a once shy 13-year-old, to become an outgoing advocate for childhood cancer research. Now, Megan regularly speaks to crowds and shares her story, in hope of raising awareness and inspiring change for kids with cancer.
“This whole thing has made me a stronger person,” Megan said. “I think people need to know it [cancer] isn’t like the commercials, it’s absolute torture for kids.”
After some investigating, Megan discovered that of the federal money budgeted for cancer research, less than 4% goes to childhood cancer. She was shocked to see the data and knew she had to take action, not only for herself, but for all the kids battling cancer around the world. Since that time, Megan has spoken to members of the Illinois General Assembly about this and was a 2018 featured speaker at Washington D.C.’s Curefest. She also became acquainted with Dr. Walterhouse, a physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, who researches ARMS, and decided to raise funds to fight the disease. Through social media and fundraisers at her school, Megan has raised over $160,000 for cancer research at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
“The end goal is to never have another kid diagnosed with cancer,” Megan said. “I definitely won’t stop fighting until there’s either a cure, or everyone is raising awareness.”
As Megan bravely said, “I’m not going to quit, ever. Cancer changed my life but opened my mind to what a blessing life is. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and I was given this to advocate and be a voice, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Youth Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who is 17 years old or under and has performed an act of heroism involving an unusual, significant or unexpected incident, or is involved in an ongoing situation in which a commitment is made to the community through acts of kindness, courage, or unselfishness in response to an identified need.
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