Mika McKinney: One of our "whys"

Mika McKinney

Belfast, Maine

“It's important to find your people - both in and outside of health care - to get through this stuff."
Mika McKinney (pictured with nurse Julie)









She’s competitive, determined, smart; she’s beautiful, tough and 22 years old, though you wouldn’t know it from the way she talks — she knows too much, even for a bright college kid. What gives her away is how she folds her 5’11” body onto the bed, crosslegged, to receive her hours-long chemo treatment. That and her unflappable optimism.

Her name is Mika and, yes, she’s sick – which you also wouldn’t know from her bubbly conversation and future plans (think graduation and Paralympics)

I shouldn’t have met Mika, but circumstance brought her to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care (HACCC). Her story, like so many others, is now a part of our “why.” We are here delivering world-class cancer care because of all the Mikas we should never meet and won’t ever forget.

An accomplished equestrian (you can Google her!), Mika may as well have been born on a horse. Her passion for them has helped define her path – from a childhood spent in barns and on horseback to a college, Mount Holyoke, picked so she could ride competitively, to the unintentional discovery of the osteosarcoma quietly developing in her left leg, horses have been the undercurrent of it all. And they are what beckon her to her life beyond cancer (I mentioned the Paralympics, right?).

Last year, a fall off a horse resulted in an injury that didn’t heal quite right. The lingering ailment prompted further exploration which ultimately revealed bone cancer that had already metastasized to her lungs.

Nine months and one round ofchemo down, she found herself faced with a surgery double-header: seven hours to remove 31 lesions from her lungs and also her left leg from above the knee down. And now she’s at the HACCC to see if the remaining lesions on her lungs can be managed with another round of chemo. Time will tell.

Mika’s oncology journey started in Massachusetts close to where she goes to school. But she was born and raised in Belfast so it was a relief for her and her dad when she was able to come home to continue her treatment. Big-city care brought access to specialists but compromised familiarity. They felt swallowed up in the system. “It’s homey [at the HACCC] and they know who you are,” Mika said. “They know my story and my treatment without having to ask. Dr. P is really intelligent but he’s also relatable at the same time.” She twirls her finger in the hem of her fleece and beams up at her nurse, Julie. They’ve become close during treatment.

Mika found her people at the HACCC. And each donation made to the HACCC makes the giver one of every cancer patient’s “people” through their kindness and we couldn’t be more grateful. This May, Mika will graduate. She plans to walk with her peers, having mastered her prosthetic leg by then. In the meantime, she’s back in the saddle with her eyes on the prize: a cancer-free future – and a gold medal or two.

MaineGeneral Health
Office of Philanthropy

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