Strength and Courage can be found in the most difficult situations
‘Cancer’, a word that can evoke many emotions…fear, anger, sadness and frustration are just a few.
However, it is also a word that brings out some of the best in people showing strength and courage like no other.
For 12-year-old Madison Olson and her family, strength and courage is a way of life now.
(Who is Madison Olson?)
Madison, better known as ‘Maddie O’, has attended the Elsberry School District since Kindergarten. She played basketball during fifth grade and wants to play soccer.
Her mother Jessica said that ‘Maddie O’ has always been a very loving and giving child.
“She does not like to see anyone upset or hurting and is always the first to see if there is anything she can do to help that person,” said Jessica.
Around the holidays, Madison always goes through her things to see what she can give another child who has to do without. She started doing this around the age of five. She never liked seeing anyone hurting and came to her mom one day and said “Mom I want to start giving these kids my toys”. To this day she continues to do this.
‘Maddie O’ is also a country girl through-in-through.
She loves to ride four wheelers, boating, fishing and shooting. She has tried hunting but did not like killing the animals.
Madison has developed a very strong love for animals. Her favorite animals are reptiles especially snakes and alligators. She plans to become a reptilian veterinarian so she can work with alligators and of course snakes will be a bonus.
“If I would allow her, she would have an alligator farm in our backyard,” said Jessica. “We have been told about an animal shelter here in Lincoln County that will allow her to volunteer there. We will get her started with this once her treatment is done and she is completely healed.”
(Remember how this story began, ‘Cancer’?)
Well, during the July 4th weekend, ‘Maddie O’ started having severe headaches and after two weeks of suffering the doctors were seen and initially diagnosed them as stress headaches.
After a week and a half of visits to a Physical Therapist, her condition got worse and a visit to the Emergency Room was needed. The doctors still thinking it was migraines ordered a CT Scan.
Their findings evoked all of those emotions in the Jameson’s, fear, anger, sadness and frustration.
“They found a brain tumor at her brain stem and transported her to Cardinal Glennon,” said Jessica.
The type of tumor/cancer, Medulloblastoma. On July 26 the tumor was removed and the only side effect was double vision, which cleared up soon after.
Other CT Scans and MRI’s have located a second tumor located in the center of her spine. According to doctor’s, surgery is risky and could result in permanent physical damage.
Instead of risking it, the family chose an aggressive treatment plan to kill this cancer.
“This is going to be a very long hard year of treatment for Madison,” said Jessica. “But in the end this is going to save my little girls life.”
(Remember earlier when we mentioned strength and courage?)
‘Maddie O’ is the epitome of strength and courage.
First she chose to name her tumor Ted.
She along with her family chose to let Cardinal Glennon and the Unversity of Cancer Research diagnose the tumor in hopes of finding ways to keep this from happening to other children.
She has made numerous trips for radiation and chemo-therapy treatments, all time knowing that she had a good chance of being sick afterwards.
However, for ‘Maddie O’ it’s not just drawing from within and from family that she gets her strength and courage.
A community has come together to show how much love they have for a child hurting.
That community is Elsberry.
A community known for pulling together when it’s needed, whether it be natural disasters here or in other cities, benefits for those who may have lost their home to fire or organizations that send packages to troops overseas.
Now Elsberry has taken on a new cause, letting ‘Maddie O’ know that they are here for her.
(We hear it all the time, “Good Ole Elsberry”)
Within 48 hours after a Facebook page called “Prayers for Maddie O” started over 500 likes and hundreds of messages with prayer and support started filling the page. It is now up to 660 likes.
To like the page go to https://www.facebook.com/prayersformaddieo
Organizations, individuals and people that didn’t even know the family was working to find ways to show their support and show it they have.
Broadway Flowers & Fountains received a donation of blue ribbon, Madison’s favorite color, and started offering blue ribbons for a minimum $5 donation. Within hours those blue ribbons could be seen all around town on windows of businesses like the VFW Post 9064.
The VFW Post is also sponsoring a paid membership for the Air Evac Lifeteam, in case of an emergency. They have also started a 50/50 raffle, which will be drawn on Oct. 26, and will be making and selling blue ribbons.
Both locations are hoping that one day soon Broadway can be lined with blue ribbons.
At the Elsberry Schools, a Hat Day was organized by Jeanne Ogden, a neighbor and Madison’s fifth grade teacher. The hat day raised close to $900.
“Maddie is a very brave girl and has a very big heart,” said Ogden. “I have become very good friends with her parents during this time and will start home bound tutoring within the week.”
On Sept. 27, at the Clopton-Elsberry IndianHawks football game a “Pink Out” will be held. The two schools sold a combined $230 shirts. The idea came from a Clopton High School Librarian.
Also parents of classmates of ‘Maddie O’ are doing what they can to help.
“In honor of ‘Maddie O’ 100% of my commission on any Scentsy order submitted through Oct. 1st will go to ‘Maddie O’,” said Dawn Mooney.
To order go to www.savorthescent.scentsy.us/Scentsy/Buy.
During the 13th Annual Classics on Wheels and Elsberry School Fall Festival a booth will be set up taking donations for ‘Maddie O’. There will be raffles including a hometown basket and two Lenova Tablets.
Senate Theater will be having a ‘Maddie O’ night were all admissions taken that night will go towards the ‘Maddie O’ fund.
A “Prayers for Maddie O” fund has been set up at Peoples Bank & Trust in Elsberry.
Numerous other events are also being planned.
Madison has kept a very positive outlook through all of this.
“Her feelings are let’s just do what we have to do so we can be done with all of this and move on,” said Jessica. “One thing this nightmare has taught us, is life is too short to be unhappy. We don’t want people to know Madison just by the child who has cancer but also for the loving and caring person she is.”
“I want to thank everyone for all the love and support we have already received. Madison made the comment to me the other day she did not realize so many people cared,” said Jessica.
one word at a time
Tommy Georgie, four-years-old, has worked with Brandy Harrelson since April 2012. Shown here is her working with Tommy on his “S” and “M” sounds and how they blend.
Being a hero isn’t just being in the right place at the right time, it can also be what a person decides to do with their life and what impression they make on those throughout it. For Brandy Harrelson, it was a no brainer.
“I am a speech language pathologist, which means I work with kids, ages two to six, who have speech and language delays or problems,” explained Harrelson. “I work with them one on one and all of our sessions are one on one.”
Harrelson said she sees kids once a week for an hour or twice a week for half hour and either she’s helping them learn certain sounds that they can’t say or they’re working on language such as how to ask a question or how to answer questions correctly.
“The younger ones, like the two-year-olds, they may not be talking a lot or you can’t understand them,” said Harrelson. “So we work on building their vocabulary, or help them form the phrases they should be able to.”
Most two-year-olds should be able to say at least 200 words, according to research. However, some research say’s they should have more. But what Harrelson say’s is that most two-year-olds should be at least combining words. For example they should be able to form phrases like, “Daddy work,” or “Mommy drink.” If a two-year-old comes in and they’re only saying maybe 10 words, then they would consider them to be delayed.
“Normally when a child is able to say 30-50 words is when they start combining them,” said Harrelson.
It’s her expertise and passion for working with kids that has made her such an asset to the community. According to Don Bower, Scottish Rite Clinic Liaison, Harrelson’s drive and personality have made such an impact on the lives of families throughout all four counties they cover, which is Lincoln, Pike, St. Charles and Warrenton.
One of the things Harrelson does, which the kids seem to love, is using games to teach them proper speech.
“We just bombard them with language, in hopes that they will start to imitate you,” explained Harrelson. “And a lot of times,
Brandy Harrelson standing with Scottish Rite Liaison Don Bowers in front of the Scottish Rite Clinic in Elsberry at the corner of Broadway and Sixth Street.
even if the parents are doing the same thing at home, it takes that outside person, that new place for it to click and really take off.”
Harrelson went on to say she felt this was her purpose at a fairly young age. When she was a freshman in high school, she just knew working with kids was something she had to do.
“I don’t think there was a deciding factor for me,” said Harrelson. “I knew I loved working with kids. I used to babysit all the time and it may have been somebody saying, ‘Hey you should do this,’ and me being like, ‘Yeah, I should.
By the time she made it to high school, Harrelson didn’t need some of her classes, as she already had them, so during her junior and senior year she job shadowed her speech/language pathologist, who worked with elementary and middle school children. It was the two hours a week she spent doing this that left her with the idea of, “This is what she should be doing.” According to her, it was a great feeling knowing at that early of an age what she wanted to do. Following her graduation from high school, she only applied to two colleges.
“I decided to go to Fontbonne University which was a great thing because I didn’t have to change my mind about what I wanted to do in life,” said Harrelson. “My last semester of graduate school I did my practicum, which you have to be a different places and get certain hours working with different kinds of people, and my last practicum was with the Scottish Rite Clinic in St. Louis.”
Harrelson went on to say, it was from there she was offered a full time position and eventually made her way to Elsberry in March of 2006. Bowers said it didn’t take long for him to like the work she was doing.
“When I first saw her I was stressed, wondering why I was losing Kate Bockhold,” said Bowers. “But I’d say less than a month later I was so impressed with her abilities my worries just disappeared. She has such a great personality, work ethic and wining demeanor with these kids and families, I’m just in awe with her and what she does.”
One of her most memorable moments throughout her career was when she was able to help a student that suffered from a severe case of stuttering.
“In school I had only worked with one client, so I was a little lost as to what to do with this child,” explained Harrelson. “But by the time he left, I had helped him manage his stuttering to where he went from severe to mild and it left me thinking that maybe I really do know what I’m doing.”
One of the first things Harrelson said she hears parents say after their child has been with her for a few months is how high their confidence has become.
“They’re not scared to talk to people or the kid who wasn’t talking starts to,” said Harrelson. “Just being able to see them from where they started to what they become is such a reward to see.”
Harrelson is able to accommodate approximately 18 cases at a time and is currently accepting new cases in the Elsberry area. For more information or to schedule screenings either call 1-800-358-5656 or visit http://srclinic.org.
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