Eighteen-year-old Makenna Loerwald discovered a lump in her chest in August of 2009. After many doctor appointments and several tests, doctors declared the lump as a cancerous tumor.
“The tumor before the chemo started was destroying my second rib and pressing on my lung,” said Loerwald.
The news was hard for her family and friends to hear, especially for her best-friend and Southern Methodist University sophomore Samantha Matthews.
“When my mom told me about Makenna, it definitely hit me hard. It’s one of those things that you can’t really wrap your mind around,” said Matthews.
Growing up as neighbors, Matthews and her sister became best friends with McKenna. All three girls attended the same private elementary school together where their friendship grew.
“She lives down the street from us. She’s basically family,” said Matthews.
Loerwald, a senior at Denton High School, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma last November and must regularly undergo blood treatments.
To help her friend’s battle with cancer, Matthews organized a blood drive on campus Tuesday to collect blood for MaKenna’s treatments.
“[Makenna] is going through the hardest time in her life that most of us never even have to think about doing,” said Matthews. “I can’t take the pain away, so this is one thing I can do just to help make her journey a little bit easier.”
From 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Carter Blood Care bus was parked by the flagpole and welcomed students and adults who wanted to help support Makenna and others awaiting blood treatments.
Some were veteran donors while others were new to contribute.
“I donate whenever I can,” says SMU freshman Emily Reagan. “It’s good for the community.”
The blood drive was a success- collecting a total of 32 pints of blood from 30 campus donors. At clinics around the area, Makenna’s family friends, teachers and peers donated another 21 pints of blood.
Makenna, who has gone through four blood transfusions since December, may require more before her next surgery. These transfusions consist of two units of blood given over a four-hour time period.
“Blood transfusions are a way to help cancer patients feel better after their treatments,” Makenna says. “The chemo defeats your immune system and energy level.”
The donated blood that was collected will act as “replacement credit” McKenna won’t have to pay toward future transfusions.
Donating is a fast and simple way to connect with those who are suffering. The entire process takes less than an hour and collects a unit of blood (about one pint), but the small amount of blood one gives can save someone in the future.
“A little act on my part can make a big difference to someone else,” said SMU freshman Alex Mezey.
Although Makenna is unknown to many at SMU, her story has touched several lives.
“You kind of feel like you have a specific connection when it’s for a person, even if you don’t know them,” said SMU junior Samantha Verrill.
Makenna has undergone six rounds of chemotherapy thus far, causing her tumor to shrink by about 70 percent. She is scheduled for surgery next week to remove the last of the tumor and one of her ribs.
“Her attitude is absolutely amazing,” said Matthews. “As much as she’s going through, she still has a smile on her face and brings so much joy into everyone around her, reminding us all to make the best of everything.”
To learn more about Makenna and her journey visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/makenna91.
Originally published on February 17, 2010 in The Daily Campus.