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What Does Power, Strength, and Resilience Look Like? Mackenzie.

Updated: Jun 4

When asked about one word to describe her daughter Mackenzie, Christine immediately responded “powerful”. And powerful she was, as she embodied this word with her strength and resilience every day. We are so honored to share Mackezie’s story with you. 

On the weekend of May 20, 2023, Mackenzie was just a regular teenager, playing in a club volleyball tournament. Despite some complaints of an earache, she seemed perfectly fine. But three days later Mackenzie had an unexpected seizure in class. She was rushed to the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula which turned into a trip up to Stanford's Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital where it took some time to figure out what was wrong. After 6 days of testing, they found a 6 centimeter mass on Mackenzie’s brain. They did a biopsy 2 days later then waited one more week to find out what was going on. When the doctors pulled Christine and her family into a room they heard the words no family ever wants to hear, Mackenzie had cancer. More specifically, Mackenzie had a grade 4 glioma brain tumor. This marked the beginning of their uncertain journey.

In July, Mackenzie underwent a 10 hour surgery in order to remove the brain tumor. During this extremely long day, doctors told Christine that her daughter only had 12-18 months to live. In response, Christine told them not to put an expiration date on her daughter; she knew she would do whatever it took in order to give Mackenzie a fighting chance. After surgery, Christine and Mackenzie stayed in a hotel near Lucile Packard while they endured six weeks of chemo and radiation treatments. At this point, Chelsea Tuomi, a social worker from Stanford, connected their family with Jacob’s Heart. Their family support specialist, Yasmin, along with other team members, met Mackenzie and Christine for the first time at Lucile Packard. From that moment on, Yasmin became like family to Christine and Mackenzie.

In the midst of summer vacation, Christine and her family spent quality time with Mackenzie while she tried to be a normal teenager. Once Mackenzie was cleared to fly, they decided to go on a trip to Orlando to see Mackenzie’s boyfriend, Nico, play in a volleyball tournament. Unfortunately, only a month after Mackenzie stopped chemo in September, the tumor returned in October. As the seasons changed from summer to fall, Christine realized how little control she had over the situation as Mackenzie started to lose mobility on the left side of her body. Her mom helped her out where she could and knew that Mackenzie was being strong for the people who were around her. As they tried to make it to January to try a new experimental treatment, Mackenzie was getting weaker. Even with the approval of new medication, the tumor kept growing. 

During the week leading up to Christmas, Mackenzie’s headaches worsened significantly. By the Friday before Christmas, her headaches got worse, prompting Christine to rush her to the hospital. The situation brought back unsettling memories of when Mackenzie first got sick in May. At the Community Hospital of The Monterey Peninsula, Mackenzie said her “I love you's” to her boyfriend Nico over the phone before she lost consciousness. From this hospital, they were airlifted to Stanford where multiple doctors were waiting. As the doctors did everything they could, Christine stayed by her daughter's side. But the next morning, doctors told Christine there was nothing more they could do. On December 24, Christmas Eve morning, Mackenzie passed away in her mothers arms with all her family by her side, leaving behind a lasting impact on everyone that has been lucky enough to know her. 

“Never once, the entire time did she complain…she had her head up high and always had a smile on her face… I was astounded at her strength and courage” Christine remarked about her daughter. “She did not let it stop her from living

life to the fullest.”

Mackenzie’s incredible courage continues to inspire Christine and everyone around her. She keeps her daughter’s memory alive by cherishing and sharing the beautiful pictures and videos that capture Mackenzie’s vibrant spirit.

Jacob’s Heart has been a continuous support for Christine and will continue to be there for her. Christine lovingly refers to Yasmin as part of their extended family, acknowledging that they couldn't have made it through without her. Through retreats and support groups, Jacob’s Heart has cultivated a sense of love and belonging for parents who have tragically lost a child. "Once a Jacob’s Heart family, always a Jacob’s Heart family" is what we say, Christine and her support system will forever be a cherished part of our family.

As Christine now navigates through the grief she will live with, she continues to speak about Mackenzie every day. When talking about grief, Christine says “It is okay to be sad and not be okay, the more you talk about your child the better. It is not a shameful thing, it isn’t your fault, and it was nothing that you could have controlled.” Christine is open about her grief, hoping it will help other parents who are going through something similar. She knows that the pain she feels is a testament to the deep love she has for her daughter. Mackenzie lives on in the community who loves her. At her funeral, over 500 people came to celebrate her beautiful life. She has inspired many and will continue to do so. Mackenzie will always be remembered by her loving family and friends who keep her memory alive. 


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