Tri-Cities cancer survivor helps patients through nonprofit organization

KENNEWICK, Wash. — It’s been nearly ten years since Mckenzi Fish started Forever Fighters. It’s a nonprofit organization that supports babies, children, teens and their families during their cancer center. Fish and her team deliver gift basket to patients and help families with travel costs they incur from travelling to treatment.

Fish helps because she is a cancer survivor herself.

“One day I was dancing non-stop and I was having fun with my friends the next day I just started feeling a little weird,” Mckenzi said.

Ten years ago, in October of 2010, Mckenzi, a sophomore at Chiawana High School, was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancer was affecting the 15-year-old’s lymphatic system.

“Scared obviously, there’s a lot of fear and a lot of unknown,” she said.

Luckily, Mckenzi’s cancer was treatable. She would travel to Seattle Children’s Hospital for chemotherapy and try to maintain a normal high school life back in the Tri-Cities.

“We would drive up to Seattle for treatments, and then drive back after the seven hour treatments so that way I could be in school the next day,” Mckenzi explained.

Fish said it was nothing like what you see on television.

“You feel sick, your hair falls out, you have joint pain, but I was hungry but I had sores in my mouth,” she recalled.

During treatment, Mckenzi met other patients and discovered the disparities in childhood cancer treatment. She met children who were given doses of adult chemo and babies who had undergone clinical trails.

Joan Stewart, with the Tri-Cities Cancer Center said, we’ve come a long way in childhood cancer treatment but there’s still work to do.

“Fifty years ago we only could offer five years survival to about 50 percent of the children and now we’re up to 86 percent,” she said.

An article published by the National Institutes of Health highlighted the difficulties of researching new treatments for childhood cancer. It said a small number of patients, meant the focus gets put on adults.

“Childhood cancer is known, but it’s not known just how un-rare it is,” Mckenzi said.

After four months of treatment, Mckenzi was finally cancer free and ready to start helping others.

“I left the hospital and I said ‘I need to do something because I this is not okay’ like, I can’t just leave these kids fighting for their lives in the hospital when I’m leaving to go live the rest of mine,” she said.

So, Fish started Forever Fighters and they’re still going strong despite the pandemic. Mckenzi said they’re a little tight on finances because they had to cancel some of their fundraisers.

“COVID stopped just about everything but our mission does not stop, cancer does not stop and so that’s one thing I had to figure out how we can keep moving?” she said.

Mckenzi has even partnered with the Tri-Cities Cancer Center to create a guide for young cancer patients.

“Kenzi is a very special person and I’m so encouraged by who she is and what she gets done, it’s amazing what that stressful diagnosis can do to help people grow and mature in super adults,” Joan said.

To this day, Mckenzi still lives with lingering effects of cancer and that’s why she is forever fighting, like many others.

“I have to keep helping I can’t sit back and watch it, like I have to help,” she said.

If you’d like to get involved, visit Forever Fighters here.

 

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