Author: Melissa Miller, Midwest Regional Manager
Morgan Long is an eighteen-year-old girl that goes to Fond du Lac Community College in Cloquet, MN. Morgan reached out to Love Your Melon a couple of months ago, showing interest in starting a campus crew. I was lucky enough to get to know Morgan and hear her inspiring story on why she wanted to start a LYM crew. We texted back and forth about her journey and I found her story to be remarkable. Morgan wanted to share her story with children who are currently battling cancer across America.
I have balance issues, memory and speech problems, and I have not had a normal life like most people. Things have gotten taken away from me that I won’t get back. My life has not been fair but I have fought with dignity. I appreciate every day because I know life is uncertain. I felt like telling my story because it is important that kids know that they can get through battling cancer as long as they have a positive attitude. There are many different kinds of treatments. Doctors said that I wouldn’t live past the age of five most likely and I am almost nineteen…. I proved them all wrong. I never gave up. Even if you have a disability, you matter and you’re unique. ~ Morgan Long
When Morgan was 17-months-old, she was diagnosed with an Ependymoma, a form of brain cancer. At first, she was brought to the hospital three different times, each time being told that she had the flu. After nine days of having the “flu” her mom knew that something was wrong, so she went in again and the doctor said, “We will do a cat scan to put your minds at ease.” That is when they found a fist size tumor in her 4th ventricle. She went to Mayo Clinic and had an extensive brain surgery. After the surgery she had 3/D conformal radiation, which was a huge risk being that the brain had so much developing to do. Doctors told her family that the radiation at such a young age would cause developmental issues.
Morgan was diagnosed on August 11, 1998 and has continued to battle this cancer for 17 years of her life. Morgan has had 2 shunt surgeries, 2 gamma knife radio surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, 7 brain surgeries and multiple regrowth’s of the tumor. She has spent most of her life at doctors’ appointments, in the hospital, getting treatments, and just feeling sick all of the time. December 29th 2015, Morgan returned to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for a brain MRI. She was thrilled to hear the doctors say that they did not see any tumor regrowth at this time. When she gets news like this she is really happy but she doesn’t tend to get overexcited because she knows that the Ependymoma tumors are the types that can come back at any time.Last May, she had another reoccurrence where the doctors needed to remove the right cerebellar tonsil and the surrounding area. This surgery affected her hearing, eyesight, and balance. When I asked how she got along with the doctors, she had nothing but good things to say! At her last appointment her oncology doctor pulled her aside and told her on how proud she was of her and how she has become such a great young lady. Her doctor said, “There are nights where I can’t sleep and I lay there and I think, how can I help Morgan?” Morgan’s neurologist came to the hospital on a Sunday night when she was not working, brought Morgan a Christmas gift, and said, “Let’s get you up and see if we can get you walking.” She claims that she would not be alive today without her doctors. She is very thankful for the life that her Mayo Clinic team has given her! One time, Morgan was frustrated because her hair was growing back at all different lengths after chemo. She had time in-between appointments and decided to go get her hair cut. She met a super great hairstylist, Lindsay. Lindsay said to Morgan, “Child, your hair is a bunch of different lengths, you are in need of a good haircut!” Ever since Lindsay did her hair that day, they have been good friends and have had a special bond.
I don’t like to talk to many people about my illness, I hold a lot inside and it is hard for me to open up to people. I did with her for some reason and I really have no idea why. She is really easy to talk to even though we haven’t known each other long. She is always positive and she puts a smile on my face. Maybe it’s the things that I have gone through that made me mature more quickly because I had no choice to do so. I click with people older than me but I opened up to her and I’m so grateful to have met a person like her and her son Ben.
When I asked how her cancer journey has affected her outlook on life, Morgan says that she lives day by day. She has learned that she is a fighter, and she realized how strong she was and that she doesn’t give up. Morgan said, “I wasn’t able to go to school at all my junior year of high school because I was very sick from my chemotherapy and a surgery. I had a homebound teacher who became a very close friend of our family. My senior year of high school I went one hour a day. My case manager helped me graduate. I remained positive throughout my schooling disruptions.”
Morgan is forever grateful for The Northern Lights Foundation, Nadia’s Gift of Hope, Make A Wish, Essentia Cancer Center, and the local community. She has had a great deal of support, which has made the journey a little easier. Morgan’s favorite colors are purple and black. She loves converse shoes and hats. Morgan has always wanted to go to Paris to see the Eiffel tower and the lock bridge. She also wants to go to Amsterdam and see the Ann Frank House. Morgan would like to pursue a career in the healthcare field, possibly in Human Services. She wants to be able to help other people.
I asked Morgan what comforting advice would she want to give other children that are currently battling cancer and she said,
Don’t give up the fight, don’t let cancer take away your dignity, win the fight.