When it comes to showing bravery and courage when battling against the odds, Mackenzie Ratcliffe is a true champion.
Southland Park resident and soccer fanatic Mackenzie, 13, was diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumour in August 2011.
"On the day they gave us the diagnosis, she didn’t cry, she just said, ‘Mom, don’t cry. Everything is going to be OK.’ She was more worried about us," said Mackenzie’s mom Lorraine, noting one of her daughter’s symptoms was reoccurring headaches, which were particularly bad in the morning.
"Seeing how strong she was and drawing from that strength was amazing. She was hurting so much on the inside, yet outwardly she was still making people laugh," added Mackenzie’s dad, Rob, noting that Mackenzie’s sisters, Delaney, 18, and Kennedy, 17, have also been towers of strength throughout.
After multiple surgeries (including a bone marrow transplant), radiation and chemotherapy treatments — Mackenzie didn’t miss a day of school during radiation — the St. Emile Catholic School student has been in remission for more than a year now.
To help raise funds and awareness for the disease — and offset the ongoing costs associated with the side effects of her treatment — Mackenzie will be among those taking part in the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s Spring Sprint 2013, which will be held on Sun., June 2 at the Duck Pond Shelter at Assiniboine Park. Registration for the fun run and walk will begin at 9:30 a.m. and the event will start at 11 a.m. Mackenzie will be part of team Mack Attack and also the inspiration behind a fundraising T-shirt, which costs $20.
In an amazing twist to the tale, Mackenzie — who plays for the Bonivital Flames and supports Glasgow Celtic and Spain — secured a spot on the provincial soccer team approximately one month after her surgeries.
The family is thankful to Rob Gale, technical director of the Manitoba Soccer Association, who visited her in hospital and helped inspire her return to the soccer field. "He has been amazing," Lorraine said.
And along with the support of family, friends, classmates, employers and the soccer community, Mackenzie is also grateful to the numerous medical professionals that have aided her road to recovery, which include "Dr. West, Dr. Israels, Dr. Lee, Dr. Schroeder, Michelle, Scott and the radiation team and PICU and CK5 staff."
While she is not playing soccer at the provincial level this season, as she continues to focus on her recovery, Mackenzie’s spirit appears as strong as ever.
"Soccer just gave me the motivation to keep going," said Mackenzie, noting she wants to be a nurse because she was inspired by the role played by nurses during her hospital stay. "And I never take things for granted because this has given me a new appreciation for life."
And what was Mackenzie’s first question after completing her radiation and chemotherapy treatments?
"When do I get to play soccer again?" said Lorraine, adding that during Mackenzie’s radiation, when her hair had fallen out, she got to shave her dad’s head.
"She loved that," laughed Rob.
Visit www.braintumour.ca/2715/participant-and-team-search to donate or register with team Mack Attack. Order deadline for the T-shirts is April 30.