DES MOINES, Iowa – It's a big week for an Altoona teen who has battled cancer five times in the last seven years. The Southeast Polk Junior is now considered cancer free, and she wants to stay that way.
Mackenzy Larson is a regular at Blank Children's Cancer and Blood Disorder Center. "She always comes in, not always comes in with a smile, usually comes in with a smile, but she’s always ready to put her head down and do whatever it takes,” said Registered Nurse Amber Burke.
She’s become a pro at getting her vitals checked, having nurses access her port, and waiting. "I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when I was nine, and it was in my left femur," said Mackenzy.
That was the summer of 2011. The cancer came back in her chest two years later. Two years after that, it popped up in her lower left leg. It came back again last year.
"It came back again last year in my left knee this time, and I had to get an amputation for that, and then it came back again in July in both my left and right lungs," said Mackenzy.
Now that there's no evidence of disease, she’s taking oral chemotherapy and getting her first dose of a drug she hopes will keep the cancer from coming back. "I get my new drug Mepact today," said Mackenzy.
The drug is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. It is used in dozens of other countries. "I'll be the first one in Iowa to get it," said Mackenzy.
Mackenzy had to get special approval and raise about $100,000 to pay for the drug. Donations from the community and organizations like Angels for Sam helped raise money for medical expenses. "It's really heartwarming that all these people want to help me try to get this drug. It makes me so happy and feel loved," said Mackenzy.
The hope is the drug stimulates the immune system to kill tumor cells. "With this drug and chemo together, it has kind of given us better odds and hope, so hopefully it sticks and she can stay in remission," said Mom Deana Taylor.
The treatment will last about ten months. For the first several months, she'll have transfusions of the drug two times a week. She's also taking oral chemotherapy. She'll do all of this while finishing her junior year of high school and starting her senior year.