A local teenager around whom the community rallied to help fund her cancer treatment has passed away.
Makayla Puddicombe, 15, died at the Janeway in St. John’s Thursday.
“Some people come into your life, and just when you think you are there to teach, help or inspire them to be greater than they believe, they teach you something even greater,” Olympic medalist and Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team member Karina LeBlanc, who had become friends with Makayla over the past four years, wrote on Twitter Thursday night.
“I wanted to make her smile. I wanted for her to feel no pain. I thought of her often and prayed for her but never did I imagine that the strength and positive energy I felt and saw from her would not be enough.”
Makayla had first been admitted to the Janeway when she was 13, after tests revealed she had a brain tumour. She had surgery and, when it was determined the tumour was an aggressive form of cancer rarely seen in children, six weeks of radiation treatment.
Almost a year later an MRI showed the tumour had come back, and doctors suggested Makayla participate in clinical trials of a new drug that were taking place at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto. She did, spending five weeks in Toronto before she was able to continue the treatment at home. The drug seemed to stop the growth of the tumour, and Makayla had her second brain surgery last August. By the time she started school, the tumour had come back.
Makayla’s third surgery took place in Toronto, and she began another round of radiation at the beginning of October. At the end of November, she posted a photo on her Instagram page of a sticker chart filled with yellow minions from the “Despicable Me” movies. “Finally finished radiation,” she wrote.
Makayla began her last round of treatments at the Janeway in December, and had been in hospital since Christmas Eve. Her family had fought to have the cost of her experimental drugs covered by the province, and the community supported them, raising more than $14,000 on a Go Fund Me site and holding various fundraising events. The family received approval of the drug coverage in early December, with the possibility of extending the coverage pending MRI results after two months. An MRI Feb. 15 showed no new tumour growth, and her family, posting last week on the Go Fund Me page, said they were hoping Makayla would be able to go home soon.
LeBlanc received the sad news Thursday in an e-mail from Makayla’s mom, Michelle. LeBlanc reminisced in her social media post about a time when she wrote Makayla’s name on her glove before a game, taking a picture of it and sending it to her.
“I guess what Makayla showed me is the power in a moment,” LeBlanc wrote. “I go through life trying to make people smile and in the end what happens is so many people end up making me smile.”
Makayla leaves a large family, including her twin sister, Mackenzie. Her funeral will take place Monday afternoon at St. Teresa’s church in St. John’s.
The Go Fund Me page which had been set up to raise funds for Makayla and her family while she was travelling back and forth to Toronto is still active at www.gofundme.com/nf7xtct8.