MacKale, an 8th grader with a love for all things sports, just wanted to find a way to be active again. In his mind, if that meant amputating the lower half of his left leg, so be it…
When MacKale was 11, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Hearing the word ‘cancer’ is a devastating blow for any kid to handle, but especially difficult for a kid as athletic and driven as MacKale.
He loves playing sports and skiing with his brothers, and cancer in his leg meant the loss of mobility and independence, let alone soccer and ski trips. It was clear early on that no matter what happened, MacKale’s leg would never be the same.
Since his diagnosis, MacKale has endured hundreds of nights in the hospital, countless rounds of chemotherapy and a 14-hour surgery to try to save and rebuild his leg.
Instead of running around the playground with his brothers and friends from school, MacKale’s days were filled with physical therapy, scans, transfusions and many slow, painful miles of walking on crutches around the oncology floor.
It was extremely difficult for MacKale’s family to watch him suffer through the painful treatments. His mom, Marsha, was afraid the constant negative effects of chemotherapy would bury her son’s energetic and compassionate personality.
“When the chemo took over his body, MacKale would withdraw into himself,” Marsha said. “He would be quiet. He could only fight the nausea and pain by shutting out the rest of the world.”
However, MacKale has never let his treatments get in his way for long. When he was spending days at a time in the hospital, he would crutch down the hallways and wave to the other kids. He especially felt for the kids who were too sick to be let out of their rooms – so he pulled up a chair outside their windows to play with them through the glass.
“Despite exhaustion, frustration, sickness and being beyond weary, he was still ‘him’,” Marsha said.
MacKale had been doing well, but this past winter he started feeling pain in his leg again. Although his scans were clear of cancer, the bone in his leg was deteriorating. His doctors suggested he get a magnetic prosthetic inside his knee, meaning it would grow with him as he grew…
But when he found out this meant he wouldn’t be able to ski – a non-negotiable for him – he decided he wasn’t interested in saving his leg. He and his family made plans for the surgery - to amputate his left leg above the knee.
MacKale is now home from the hospital, recovering from surgery and learning how to get around, with the help of his parents, brothers and dog, who likes to lay her head on the wrap around MacKale’s leg. He’ll have to go back in to the doctor for regular scans, which his family is praying stay clear. Marsha says they never could have made the decision to amputate without all the support they’ve received from doctors, other amputee patients, friends and family.
“We are thankful for the people who have taken us under their wings and continue to pray for us. Your prayers give us strength and make us brave enough to make the tough decisions,” Marsha said. “Brave enough so that when we finally heard someone say, ‘this is what I think you need to do,’ it felt right, and we were at peace.”