More than 4

Megan Bugg advocates for childhood cancer funding, awareness

IN OBSERVANCE OF International Childhood Cancer Day on Feb. 15, Megan Bugg is opening up about her three-year battle with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma with the hope it brings awareness and necessary research. Courtesy photo
Ann Gill

     Megan Bugg  recalls the day she was diagnosed with cancer, it was news she  didn’t want her family to share. But now she’s opening up about her three-year battle with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma with the hope it brings awareness and necessary research.
    It’s estimated that 15,200 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the coming year. That’s 42 kids per day who will undergo treatment procedures that haven’t changed in decades.
    In the words of someone who’s been through 90 weeks of chemotherapy, “no one, especially children,  should be handling chemotherapy, their bodies are not made to handle that and kids are getting the same type of chemotherapy that adults use.”
    Bugg said people need to know that just 3.8 percent of cancer research funding goes toward finding treatment and cures for childhood cancers.
    Megan and many others have made it clear, kids deserve more than 4 percent. So she’s taking matters into her own hands. She’s doing her part to bring awareness to the lack of funding, raising dollars for research and advocating not only for herself, but other kids with cancer.
    “Most of the kids are so little they can’t advocate for themselves, so I want to advocate for them,” Bugg said.
    It’s a role she’s taken on in honor of those who are battling the disease and for those, like her friend Mia, who lost the fight.
    Megan, the daughter of Kent and Debbie Bugg, began advocating for herself and her efforts to bring awareness to childhood cancer has grown over time.
    “It was probably after the first year, towards the end of the year-long chemo cycle that I figured out I needed to do that knowing there is literally no cure. And, seeing my friends pass away and kids in my hospital, I knew I had to do something,” Bugg said.
    She began researching, scanning the internet for data, facts and figures, and  she talks with other kids who, like her, are looking for answers, a cure and a healthy future.
    In her research she found the amount of money American’s spend in two days on their mochaccinos and macchiatos is equivalent to the dollars the government gives to support childhood cancer research on a yearly basis.
    It’s not enough, especially when she reads about a 7-year-old who asks his mom if he’s going to die.
    “It’s heartbreaking, they shouldn’t have to worry about that ever,” Bugg said.
    In her quest to support cancer research, Bugg learned from her own medical team of a research study being conducted at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.  
    Dr. David Walterhouse, a pediatric oncologist, is currently researching alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma and his work has benefited from a $10,000 donation from Bugg and she’s close to making another $10,000 donation.
    “We wanted to find a place to donate, a place where we knew it was going somewhere good and it was actually going to help. With this we know it’s going to good use and knowing each dollar is one step closer. Even though the cure might still be far away, it’s another step closer to finding what works or doesn’t,” Bugg said.
    The funds she’s raised have come through private donations, collections and fundraisers conducted by her classmates at Coal City High School.
    And recently she received a $5,000 donation from Wish Upon a Star.
    She’s grateful for all the support she’s received with the fundraising efforts. Amazed at the large donation from the Joliet-based Wish Upon a Star foundation and the on-going support of students in her district.
    Additionally, through a partnership with national clothing manufacturer Ivory Ella and its partners Alex & Ani and Love Your Melon, Bugg helped to raise thousands more to support child cancer research.
    “People think, oh, I can only donate $5 and it’s not going to help, but it does. Any donation, even a $1 helps and shows you care and want to make a difference,” Bugg said.
    She wants people to know that ever dollar donated, letter received  and word of encouragement shared means a lot to her, and to the thousands of kids ages 0-18 fighting cancer.
    Throughout her treatment, especially in those initial months, she said the letters and packages that arrived at her door kept her going. “Knowing how many people were thinking of me, it really helped,” she said.
    What also has helped is connecting with other kids who are going through treatment.
    “It’s nice to know someone understands what you are going through. Even as much as your family and friends try to understand, they don’t unless they’ve gone through it,” she said.
    Through social media and her father’s weekly blog, “Megan’s Journey,” she’s made dozens of new friends, unfortunately a few have since lost their battle. One of them was Mia.
    Mia, like Megan, was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. She passed away one year ago, just days after the two met in person.
    “When my friend, Mia died from the same (cancer), it was scary in a lot of different ways, but it made me realize she did not deserve that, no one deserves that and it’s time we stepped up and did something, so if no one else is going to, I’m going to,” Bugg said.
    Her determination to demand more for herself and her peers shows the growth that’s come in the past three years.
    Admittedly shy, Megan said she’s no longer afraid to speak up and speak out about what she believes in. Some would say she’s lost her filter and that’s good.
    “It’s still hard to share your full story but, I know when I’m sharing I’m helping people,” Bugg said.
    Today she talks about the ups and downs that have come with cancer, learning to live in the moment and never taking a day for granted.
    Megan will tell you cancer is a scary ride, the unknown of how she’ll do from one day to the next, the anxiety that comes with regular checkups and scans.
    “It’s a scary thing, when there is no cure or actual treatment that is going to 100 percent kill the cancer. Not knowing what’s next is scary, I have scans coming up in the middle of March, but I’m trying to forget about it for now. If I worry about it forever and there is something, then I’ve just wasted a whole month,” she said.
    Over time Megan has learned to try not to think too much about the next doctor’s appointment, blood draw or scan.
    What she is focusing on these days is what her future holds. She’s making plans to take more courses at school, will do some work over the summer months in order to graduate with her class in spring 2019.
    After that, she’s looking to head west to college in California. A career in entertainment or the medical field are current options, but she hasn’t made any solid plans as of yet.
    No matter where her path takes her, it’s a sure bet she’ll continue making her mark in the fight against childhood cancer.
    “My goal is to keep fundraising, getting money until we find that cure and no kid has to go through it anymore and no kid is dying or suffering, because a kid should be enjoying their childhood not worrying about being sick and if they will live,” Bugg said.
    To continue support for research, she’s accepting donations for the alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma  research initatives at Luries.
    Donation’s made payable to Lurie Children’s Hospital can be sent to her dad, Kent Bugg, at the Coal City Unit 1 School District Administration Center, 550 S. Carbon Hill Rd.,Coal City, IL, 60416.