Makayla Allen and Caroline Mayne never crossed paths at Beaumont Children’s Skandalaris Family Center for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders, while they both battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
They never competed against one other in the same sport — Mayne is a soccer player at Troy Athens High School, and Allen is a cheerleader and runs track at Lake Orion High School.
But they shared the same kind of courage and inspiration, as they continued to play their sports while battling the same type of blood cancer.
And they both rang the same celebration bell at Beaumont Hospital, within months of one another, after finishing treatment.
Allen stood in front of the bell on May 7, surrounded by family, friends and teammates, as she read a plaque on the wall. “Ring this bell, three times well, it’s told to clearly say: ‘My treatment’s done, the course is run and I am on my way,’” Allen said, as she rang the bell and smiled, as everybody started screaming and clapping.
We are cheering and screaming right along with them.
Allen and Mayne will be named co-winners of the Courage Award on Thursday at the second annual Detroit Free Press Sports Awards, presented by Detroit Area Honda Dealers.
Now, here is the great news, the best kind of inspiration. They are both heading to Michigan State in the fall.
A pair of future Spartans in remission.
Mayne was diagnosed when she was a sophomore. She went through treatment and missed her sophomore season. But she felt tremendous support from her teammates.
“They were super, super supportive,” she said. “My sophomore year, they created T-shirts in honor of me with Team Caroline on the back and they would wear them during warm-ups of every game.”
The cancer returned in November 2017. “It was my chest, in the lymph nodes,” she said.
“It was scary and shocking. It was really confusing and scary overall. The second time through, I went through even more intense treatment. I had to be overnight in the hospital. I had to be in the hospital for about a month. It was all pretty scary.”
She went through chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiation for about five months.
“She has been an absolute trooper and warrior,” Todd Heugh, Troy Athens soccer coach, said. “She’s been on this huge emotional roller coaster. But she was determined to be a four-year member of Athens soccer. Physically, she’s still not quite there. She has given us everything she possibly could for four years. She was a huge inspiration to me, that’s for sure.”
Mayne returned to the soccer team as a junior but started out on the bench. “About a quarter of the season, of my junior season, I started playing again,” she said.
Mayne struggled with her strength and endurance during her senior season.
“It was very, very challenging,” she said. “Early in the season, I felt I wasn’t making a difference as I hoped I would. I was just there. My strength wasn’t there, but over time I have gotten better and improved.”
And now, she has a strength that can’t be measured.
“I feel like I have inspired them to be stronger on the field,” she said, of her teammates. “If I can get through cancer, I can do anything.
“I think it changed my outlook on life. Before I got sick I was uptight — and I still can be, sometimes — but now I’m more of a go-with-the-flow type girl. No matter what comes at me, I just take it on and stay confident and positive. I don’t let the little things get to me. I’ve dealt with something far more serious than a simple math test or soccer game.”
Allen was at a cheerleading camp last summer when one of her teammates noticed she had a lump on her neck.
“It was parent pickup day,” Patrice Allen, her mother, said. “She said, ‘Mom look.’
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, she has a sore neck and it’s swollen.’”
A chest X-ray found 13-centimeter mass in her chest.
“Complete shock, breakdown, crying, everything,” Patrice Allen said.
Makayla was treated at Beaumont, going through chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant.
“It was just awful,” Patrice Allen said. “She had six months of chemo and 14-straight days of radiation. We are in remission now.”
Makayla didn’t miss a beat and continued cheerleading.
“It was tough for me to go through the whole situation but it helped having my team and family and friends support me through the entire journey,” she said. “They made bandannas for me and a blanket for me. They made T-shirts for me and put on a huge pasta dinner fundraiser to help with the medical bills for my cancer treatment. It just showed me that my team supports and loves me, and we go through everything together and my coaches really care about me.”
It was a difficult transition to start running track again, but she qualified for the state meet as part of the 4×100 relay.
“It was hard,” she said. “I definitely noticed a difference in my strength and conditioning. It was hard coming back. I realize that last year, it was much different. I was much faster and stronger than I am now. It was hard. It still is hard.”
She is thinking about cheering at MSU.
“It made me appreciate life and everything I have and everything that is given to me,” Makayla said. “It made me realize I don’t have to be perfect all the time and it’s OK to show people my vulnerable side. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK if I don’t look my best and put on a happy face for everyone.”