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Brave Mackenzie cherishing every ‘monster’ moment


But, no matter what challenges are thrown her way, the inspirational 14-year-old confronts them with a smile on her face.

After being diagnosed with a rare but very aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she continues to fight the battle of her life… only four years after losing her mum Stacey to cancer.

If anything, the cruel twist of fate’s taught Mackenzie, and her family – dad Adrian and sisters Hannah, Isabella and Matilda, one thing.

That is, to cherish every moment.

She’s swam with the dolphins, cuddled koalas, rode a rollercoaster, crashed cars in the dodgems, visited theme parks and taken road trips, leaving her medical woes behind.

And, at the weekend, the Raymond Terrace local added monster trucks to her list, thanks to Sleapy’s Foundation.

The team behind the Crusty Demons Motorsports Tour invited Mackenzie and her clan to the Maitland Showground on Saturday 21 October for a VIP experience.

Raymond Terrace teen Mackenzie Papworth. Photo: Rod Thompson

They introduced the youngster to Crusty Demons legend James “Bubba” Chiasson, the professional riders and rolled out the red carpet for the Papworths, giving them a bird’s eye view of the action.

“We contacted Sleapy’s Foundation and heard Mackenzie’s story and it resonated with us,” Alex Luber said.

“A lot of people [here] have lost others to cancer.

“So, we wanted to treat the Papworths to something unique, while raising as much money as we can for the Newcastle-based charity.

“We’ll take a collection bucket around the crowd and make a donation ourselves.”

In April 2022, Mackenzie’s world was turned upside down when she found a lump in her groin that despite numerous doctors’ visits and rounds of antibiotics continued to grow.

Following her diagnosis, she powered straight into rounds of chemotherapy.

However, just days into her hospital-based treatment, she developed a few hiccups – one of which was high fevers of 40-plus degrees for three weeks solid and a further verdict of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a severe systemic inflammatory syndrome that triggers a strong activation of the immune system within cancer patients.

Attention was soon turned to combat HLH before she could tackle her battle with lymphoma.

After three months straight at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital, countless surgeries, chemotherapy and a week in intensive care, Mackenzie finally returned home.

“To say everyone was over the moon just wouldn’t do it justice,” Adrian said.

“She was kicking cancer to the curb.

“And, with the news she was in remission, the sense of excitement and joy was overwhelming.

“The time came for the bone marrow transplant after being postponed on two occasions.

“So, we moved her to a hospital room at the Randwick Children’s Hospital for a minimum of three months in total isolation.

“That included nine days of body irradiation, followed by a day of rest, which saw her immune system completely destroyed in preparation for her stem cell transplant.

“It would give her the best possible chance for the disease to never show its face again.”

Sadly, Mackenzie was soon thrown another curve ball.

Just seven weeks into her transplant, the lymphoma had returned.

The best way to tackle it was to head home to Newcastle under the care of her specialist, the leading doctor of children’s oncology at John Hunter, Dr Frank Alvaro.

“The news wasn’t what we were expecting,” Adrian said.

“The aggression of the lymphoma meant they will no longer be fighting for a cure but rather maintaining the disease.

“Through all of this, along with multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, 15 blood and 12 platelet transfusions, roughly eight months in hospital and too many obstacles, Mackenzie has maintained her positive disposition.”

Family time at the Maitland Showground at the weekend. Photo: Rod Thompson

And, in spite of the latest hurdle, she’s determined to not miss a beat either, with the help of Peter and Robynn Sleap.

“They’ve been fantastic from the day they first contacted me about Mackenzie and the family,” Adrian told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Peter said he’d heard about our situation and would like to donate the takings from Sleapy’s Shoelace Drive.

“So, we attended Sleapy’s Day at Merewether and the function at Souths afterwards.

“Later that night, Peter doubled the money himself because Mackenzie wanted to go to the snow… it was one of her wishes.

“It was such a brilliant gesture.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t come to fruition because she became unwell again and ended up back in hospital.

“But, honestly, since that first day, they make you feel like a part of their family.

“For example, this weekend is allowing Mackenzie to live life to the fullest.

“That’s one thing Sleapy’s Foundation has done for us.

“It’s enabling the family to do things we might not necessarily have had the chance to do.

“Every moment is special for us… and Peter and Robynn know it.

“We’re still uncertain about a lot of things, we’ve had some bad news about the cancer coming back and all that sort of stuff.

“Mackenzie’s on a trial drug from America now and it seems to be holding it off for the time being.

“However, I can’t thank Sleapy’s Foundation enough.

“And, Peter himself, he’s an amazing bloke.”

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