Morgan – This Girl Can Do Anything
Morgan was a busy, active 7-year-old when she came down with what seemed like a minor illness in November 2018. She had a fever, but tests ruled out strep throat and the flu, and her bloodwork was normal. Then she developed a cough and was treated for pneumonia. But even with antibiotics, the fever didn’t go away.
In December, Morgan’s mother, Bridgette, took her to the Phoenix Children’s Emergency Medicine Department, where she underwent a CT scan. The scan revealed that Morgan had peripheral T-cell lymphoma, a rare type of blood cancer. The news was especially devastating because Morgan’s grandfather had been diagnosed with cancer just a few months earlier.
“When the doctor told me, I was just like, ‘This isn’t true. This isn’t real life. I’m not living real life right now,’” says Bridgette.
Dr. Alexandra Walsh, who broke the news to Bridgette in the Emergency Medicine Department that day, went on to become Morgan’s primary oncologist. “She’s just been amazing,” Bridgette says of Dr. Walsh. “She has been very comforting in all sorts of ways just knowing everything that I was going through. The whole team, everybody at PCH, is amazing—the doctors, the nurses, the whole bone marrow transplant team.”
Immediately following the diagnosis, Morgan was admitted to Phoenix Children’s to begin treatment. She remained at the hospital for two weeks to have fluid drained from her lungs and chest and to begin a chemotherapy regimen. She underwent chemo on an outpatient basis until July 2019, when she had a bone marrow transplant. She was in the hospital for a little over a month for the transplant, also receiving chemo and radiation therapy during that period.
Bridgette says that Morgan’s stays at Phoenix Children’s were made more bearable by the hospital’s Child Life program, especially the art therapy and music therapy activities. “I can’t say enough good things about the stuff they do for the kids,” she says of Child Life.
While she was in the hospital for her bone marrow transplant, Morgan learned that a painting she created in art therapy had been selected for the cover of the Phoenix Children’s 2020 calendar. The first copy of the calendar was delivered to her hospital room in a silver box topped with a bow, a gesture that lifted Morgan’s spirits during a tough time, says Bridgette.
“She was so happy to get her own calendar,” she says. “It was a really bright spot to find out she won.”
Morgan also got to show off her musical talent at the hospital. With the help of Miss Grace, a Phoenix Children’s music therapist, Morgan wrote a song called “This Girl Can Do Anything.” Earlier this year, she performed it for her school’s virtual talent show, accompanying herself on the ukulele. “Everybody loved it,” Bridgette says. “Her teachers were writing to her saying how awesome it was.”
Morgan received her last chemo treatment in January 2020, and she was able to rejoin her classmates at school in February. In July, the one-year anniversary of her bone marrow transplant, she returned to Phoenix Children’s for an ultrasound, a PET scan, and a CT scan. The ultrasound and PET scan “looked great,” says Bridgette, and the CT scan showed only small nodules on her lungs, which her doctors thought were probably due to scarring or inflammation.
Bridgette, a single mom, says that caring for Morgan throughout her illness has brought the two of them “so much closer together.” Now that Morgan’s health is improving, Bridgette is ready to make the transition from caregiver back to mom. “I don’t have to be a 24/7 nurse to her anymore,” she says. “We can play and have fun and she’s not so fragile.”
Morgan, who turns 9 in October, started fourth grade in August. She’s getting back into the activities she enjoyed before she got sick, including dance, gymnastics, and martial arts. She loves to swim, and recently she was able to go swimming for the first time in two years. “Her spirit is so strong,” Bridgette says. “It’s what’s getting her through.”