WALNUT – Makanna Sabin, 11, of Walnut was diagnosed with cancer when she was just 8 years old.
When doctors discovered the grapefruit-size tumor on her liver, she was sent to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Peoria where she underwent surgery and received six cycles of chemotherapy.
Although faced with an unforeseen experience at such a young age, Sabin took on the battle and was able to beat her illness.
She and her mother, Kay Broers, consider themselves lucky.
“We were lucky to deal with it for only six months, when there’s some people who deal with it for years,” Broers said. “It was a rough six months, but we got through it.”
Sabin continues to be cancer free today and is able to recount the memorable moments made during her illness. Some of her favorites are when she learned to give shots in her stomach, gained the silly nickname “troublemaker” from her doctor, and of course, when she got to shave her own head.
While going bald may sound terrifying for some 8-year-old girls, Sabin saw the positive side of sporting no hair.
“It was kind of fun being bald,” she said. “I’m not the type of girl who likes brushing their hair, so it was kind of good I didn’t have to do it.”
Sabin refused to wear a wig during chemotherapy and even showed off her bald head during a photo shoot for a St. Jude’s Hospital calendar.
“She had a good attitude, and that’s what got us through it,” Broers admitted.
The toughest part about cancer, according to Sabin, was not being able to go places, play outside, visit the swimming pool and run around in the barnyard.
“It almost killed me,” she said.
The one thing that kept her spirits up was the talk about getting a pony once she had completed chemo treatments. Growing up on her grandparents’ farm gave her the appreciation of country life and the love of horses.
“I like brushing them and just going out to see them, and that smell ... if you gave me a choice to either smell like a horse or smell clean, I’d pick a horse because I love that smell,” she said. “It smells so good.”
Shortly after she was back on her feet and was able to go outside, play with the cows and wrestle with her cousins, she and her mom found Shamrock – the perfect pony for the family.
Today, Sabin spends a lot of her time practicing riding and jumping with her pony and travels on the weekends to horse shows.
“Mom is my teacher. She’s still teaching me how to jump, and she’s teaching me new things everyday,” she said.
Although the rough times seem to be in the past for Sabin and Broers, they take nothing for granted and continue to support St. Jude Children’s Hospital at any given chance.
“We try to do things when we can to help because it was an amazing place,” Broers said. “When you walk in the doors and they know you’re there for treatment, you see nurses with smiles on their faces even after dealing with all that they deal with, and that just makes a big difference.”
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