Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Survivor
Surviving cancer is often the spark that ignites a life-changing sense of purpose. For Madison, this couldn’t be more true. At the age of 20 she was experiencing pain in her chest. After an x-ray at an emergency room found a tumor, it was immediately sent for a biopsy. The news wasn’t good: she had non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She recalls the moment as “surreal” because at the time, her grandfather was several months into his own treatments—for lymphoma as well.
Madison was extremely close to her grandfather, who had helped raise her. So instead of moving to California to begin her “dream internship,” she put her life on hold to help care for him. Sadly, several weeks later, before she would start any treatments, he passed away. Madison found strength and a sense of peace through her faith. But it was a chance event that brought her to Moffitt.
On the day she was diagnosed, her stepdad showed her an article about a promising research study Moffitt had conducted with female non-Hodgkin patients between 20 and 25. Madison took it as a sign. She began her treatments with her family and friends at her side, and a Moffitt team who brought their own brand of comfort and strength. “My nurse Jen, she would come in and sit down,” she recalls. “And we’d just sit and talk about life…it was so refreshing.”
It was during her worst days that she marveled at the courage she saw in Moffitt nurses. “To me, it takes courage to go into a room where you know that someone is hurting or angry,” she says. “Their courage is the same thing as their love. It just has no limits.”
Madison’s experience of fighting cancer and losing her grandfather—a man who brought joy and laughter to people—sparked a passion to give back to others. That “spark” led her to create a nonprofit organization.
“It’s called ‘Spark the Way,’ and we exist to spark faith, light and community in young adults affected by cancer,” Madison explains. “Our intention is that Spark starts a fire…the kind of fire that allows you to claim victory in the most seemingly hopeless situations. Victory doesn’t come in the defeat of cancer, but in the discovery of courage.”