A Marion teen is fighting for her life for a second time.
15-year-old Megan Vess has been diagnosed with the most aggressive type of brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). According to the Journal of Lipid Research, the average life expectancy of someone with GBM is 12 to 18 months, and less than 10 percent survive five years.
However, Vess has proven she is a fighter by already overcoming a three-year battle with leukemia starting at age 10. She was diagnosed with GBM just 18 months after being in remission.
“We found out she has a gene mutation which puts her at a really high risk for a lot of cancers and brain tumors,” Megan’s mother, Amber Vess, told The McDowell News. “We thought we were on top of it because she has MRI’s every six months. They could see something on her brain and they thought it was just chemo build up, but it was a tumor the whole time.”
On Dec. 12, Megan had surgery to remove the tumor, but cell that can be removed still linger. She begins radiation treatments for six weeks in Memphis, Tenn. starting Monday
“The way they described (the tumor) is like an octopus. It’s got a head and tentacles. You can remove the head part, but the tentacles can’t be removed. From December when she had the surgery until last Wednesday it has already grown and the tentacles are already starting to form another tumor,” Amber said.
“They intertwine in the veins of the brain,” Megan added. “That’s why they didn’t think it was as tumor because there were no symptoms.”
There is no cure for GBM, and radiation will only put it at bay for a while, her mother said. They are looking into other options that have been successful, but they are costly, anywhere upwards of a $100,000. She is on an all-organic diet in hopes it will help, but the cost of healthy food is also high.
“There are studies and trials out there but my problem is if she is on trial, then I can’t do anything natural, so I don’t want it on a trial so we can still do things natural, too, in case it doesn’t work,” said Amber. “But it’s $150,000 a year for one little vial of medicine. As a mother, there is no price limit. I’ll sell everything I have, but my ultimate goal is to just find something that will save her.”
STAND Homeschool Group, of which the Vess’s are a part of, have come together to help Megan and her family get the help she needs. They have planned two fundraisers to assist with ongoing medical treatments.
“There are 50 families in the group and about 125 students that just want to help. We are selling T-shirts and hoodies that say ‘Pray for Megan’,” said Lora Loftin, a mom in the group.
On Saturday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. a benefit singing will be held featuring Mountain Oakes Bluegrass, the Hipps family, and many more at the First Baptist Church of Nebo. The church is located at 5360 U.S. 70 East in Nebo.
And then on Saturday, Jan. 28, a spaghetti dinner and silent auction will be held in the gym of New Manna School. Ages 12 and over can eat spaghetti, bread, salad and dessert for $6, and $4 for children ages three to 11. Kids two and under eat free.
A handcrafted 4 by 6 farmhouse table with two benches, valued at $500; a Max Woody red oak footstool, valued at $100; and an ultra Pro-X adventure cam autographed by TV hosts and Pro-Staff hunters Britney Glaze and Nikki Tilley, valued at $150; are some of the items up for bid. If you would like to donate for the auction, please contact Lora Loftin at 828-925-5595.
“I want this to be the biggest benefit that’s ever been held in McDowell County. We are praying for big things and a miracle,” said Loftin. “Amber has always given back and she is always thinking of others and not it’s our time to think of them.”
But, despite the diagnosis and the financial struggles, Amber and Megan are remaining hopeful and strong. Megan is an avid hunter and has been on several hunts with Bass Pro Shops SHE Outdoor Pro Staff member Brittany Glaze and Niki Tilley.
“I started when I was about 10. I hunt deer, turkey, elk, hog, squirrel, bear,” said Megan.
“It it walks, has legs and you can eat it, she hunts it,” her mom said.
And, when she’s not hunting, she and her mother are giving back to the community, especially St. Jude’s. They also have a non-profit organization where they take miniature horses to hospital facilities to visit kids with cancer.
“We like to be on the giving end, not the receiving. Megan really surprised me when she had surgery on a Monday, and the following Saturday she was at the St. Jude Christmas party that we had sponsored. She was determined to be there and be with those kids,” said Amber. “And that was special because being right in the midst of people being so kind to us; we were still able to give.”
Her friends from the home school group have also been a huge support system for Megan.
“She’s always smiling and happy, and it’s inspiring,” said Megan’s friend, 13-year-old Lydia Hamby.
“I admire Megan and her family so much. They have been through so much already and have kept a great attitude and a strong faith. And during it all, they continue to reach out and help others. I’m hopeful the community will come together and help this special family,” said Kimberly Hipps, of the home school group.
“Megan’s smart, she knows what she’s facing if we don’t find a cure, but she loves life and she’s got a huge heart,” her mom said.
Follow Megan’s fight on Facebook by searching Doodlebugs Journey. For more information on GBM, visit braintumourcharity.org.
How you can help:
Donations can also be made in the form of cash, check or gift card, and mailed to P.O. Box 2293 in Marion, NC 28752. A Go Fund Me account has also been set up at www.gofundme.com/help-megan-family. J. Lynn Photography, of Marion, is donating $10 per photo session. They can be reached by searching their name on Facebook, or calling 828-925-1406. For more information, call Lora Loftin at 828-925-5595.